Ralph Waldo Emerson Audio Books | Circles Essay

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of wearable inspiration for a better world. Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from an essay entitled “Circles” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, published in 1841….

The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary picture is repeated without end. St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose center was everywhere and its circumference nowhere.

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn rising after nightfall, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Our earthly globe is a transparent law, not a mass of facts. The law dissolves the fact and holds its fluid. Our culture is the predominance of an idea which draws after it a train of cities and institutions. Let us rise into another idea, however, and they will disappear.

Greek sculptures have melted away, as if they had been statues of ice: here and there but a solitary figure or fragment remains. For the genius that created it, creates now something else.

Consider the investment of capital in aqueducts, made useless by hydraulics; arrows, by gunpowder; canals and rivers, by roads and railways; sails, by steam; steam, by electricity. And so it goes.

Everything looks permanent until its secret is known. A rich estate appears to children a firm and lasting fact; to a merchant, one easily created out of any materials, and easily lost. An orchard seems a fixture, like a gold mine, or a river, to the average citizen; but to a farmer, not much more fixed than the state of the crop. Permanence is but a word of degrees. Everything is in motion.

The key to every man or woman is their thoughts. Each life is a self-evolving circle, which rushes on all sides outwards to new and larger circles, and without end. The extent to which this generation of circles, wheel or without wheel, will go, depends on the force or truth of the individual soul.

Though society will try to control our thoughts, the heart refuses to be imprisoned. In its first and narrowest pulses, it already beats outward with a vast force and to immense and countless expansions.

Every ultimate fact is only the first of a new series—every general law only a particular fact of some more general law that eventually will disclose itself. The concerns of today, which haunt the mind and cannot be escaped will soon be abridged into a single word, and the principle that seemed to explain nature will itself be included as one example of a bolder generalization.

In our thoughts of tomorrow there is a power in overthrowing all the creeds, all the literatures of nations, and to set our sights on an epic dream that has yet been depicted. Every person is not so much a worker in the world, as they are a suggestion of what humanity can, and should, be. We, as men and women, walk as prophecies of the next age.

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