mon 11 may 1998 01:00:00 brookline, ma
truth makes youth
well, the other night i was looking for somebody to sleep with, and came up with ralph waldo emerson.
i found this old paperback on the shelf in my office, must have been left over from my wife's undergrad days — a collection of his writings. it ain't exactly like me to read emerson, or to immerse myself in anything that smells the least scholarly. but i was in the mood for something askew from me, and figured this would put me to sleep quick.
ralph kept me up for awhile.
one july evening about 160 years ago, emerson spoke to the senior class at harvard divinity school. his speech was considered controversial then, and maybe in a way it still is. anyway, some bits stuck in my mind, enough so that i couldn't help going back and looking them up today. that longwinded concord transcendentalist did have something up his sleeve, i think.
"... if a man dissemble, deceive, he deceives himself, and goes out of acquaintance with his own being ... the least admixture of a lie — for example, the taint of vanity, any attempt to make a good impression, a favorable appearance — will instantly vitiate the effect.
"but speak the truth, and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected furtherance. speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there do seem to stir and move to bear you witness ...
"the world is not the product of manifold power, but of one will, or one mind ... all things proceed out of the same spirit, and all things conspire with it. whilst a man seeks good ends, he is strong by the whole strength of nature."
well. so that got me thinking ... truth makes youth.
to the extent a man, woman, or company or people, is the champion of some burning new idea, that person or group is vigorous — if not prosperous. if you are a cryer in the wilderness, a discoverer, a propagator of some notion great and true, then you will act in consonance with truth itself, and truth will make you young.
[...] while the flesh is capable of just one adolescence, the soul can adolesce whenever. every adolescence brings pain, which is why from our cushions we might choose to give it the cold, evasive stare-ahead. but when souls do adolesce, at whatever age, it's through the pain of recognition, the selfsmack on the forehead, the realization that aw i coulda had a v8.
it hurts. it feels just the same as being in love. that's what truth does.
by this i don't imply that people should masquerade as the young in order to put off getting old. that would miss the point. after all, when i was young, i didn't act like the young people of my time, nor love the things they loved. it's not about that. it's about blazing. blazing, yes, that's what people have to be. it's about burning, carrying a torch, singing some great secret that only you can carry. it's about suddenly knowing the one thing which, by your merely knowing it, makes you necessary.