In "Nature," Emerson discussed the delight the natural world often inspires. What does Emerson think this power to delight comes from? 

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Here is a sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her. 

Emerson describes a nature that is more serene and peaceful than any church and more realistic than any of our stories. All people are equal in nature (in nature's eyes) and therefore nature is a perfect judge (like a god) because of its indifference/objectivity. In other words, in nature we are beyond social conventions and customs. Nature is more real and is therefore an escape from the superfluous customs, histories, and doctrines of human culture. (However, Emerson goes on to say that human and urban culture are natural because they come from nature.) 

This natural escape is enchanting and Emerson says experience in nature is medicinal and sobering. It is inspiring because it is like a cure and it is enchanting because sights and sounds in nature (because they are more "natural" or "native" to us than any religious doctrine) "are the music and pictures of the most ancient religion." 

Emerson marvels at the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of nature; this highlights his thoughts on how everything (humanity included) in nature is connected. "That power which does not respect quantity, which makes the whole and the particle its equal channel, delegates its smile to the morning, and distills its essence into every drop of rain." Nature's power is found in all incarnations regardless of size (quantity) or complexity. 

The other aspect that makes nature delightful and inspiring is that man is enticed and inspired by nature's beauty but is never completely satisfied. 

There is in woods and waters a certain enticement and flattery, together with a failure to yield a present satisfaction. 

Emerson does not think this is frustrating. He thinks nature offers (is) inspiration but also implores a person to want more. Emerson makes an analogy with relationships in that the pursuit of a woman is the pursuit of the divine, always in sight but not graspable. Knowledge itself functions this way. As we obtain some knowledge, we realize that there is more to know. The complete story is always already beyond our grasp, but we are compelled to continue. 

For Emerson, nature is the place (or sense) where/when we are open enough to recognize and appreciate these connections; that our human endeavors (falling in love, seeking knowledge, seeking spirituality, etc.) are analogous to the workings of nature. Any particular delight with nature supposes greater meaning just as our "music, our poetry, our language itself are not satisfactions, but suggestions." That's why Emerson says nature is "like a god" or a teacher who can inspire just enough to implore one to seek even more. 

 

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