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"whim" means "for the slightest reason," and Emerson uses this term to refer to the need for a person to respond to the genius within him and to rely on himself rather than wait for responses from others. He says "I shun father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me" (he does not mention husband, suggesting the gendered nature of his argument), and he should not need to give an explanation for his departure. Emerson goes on to say that hopefully it will be more than a whim that calls a man away, and he does this to temper what seems to be a hyperbole in the original statement. But his point is that a man needs to rely on his intuition and to dare to be different.
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