Seminar on Emerson’s Address

I like St. John’s and its program. I am glad I went. I would do it all over again. I like tutors, even those I have never met, on the principle that Lincoln said “I never met a tutor I didn’t like” (and surely Lincoln was an honorable man.) And I like Emerson. I am sure I shall like Emerson even more once I read his address. I cannot guarantee that I will like Emerson as much or more than I like Thoreau. But one cannot like Thoreau and dislike Emerson.

The seminar is scheduled for:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

6:30 – 10:00 p.m.

The New Church
114 East 35th Street (between Lexington and Park)
New York, NY 10016

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with refreshments served. The seminar will be from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. with a reception following until 10:00 p.m.

Here is the text of Emerson’s address (one of many such links) which I found in a Google search.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Delivered before the Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge, Sunday Evening, July 15, 1838

I read the opening sentence:

In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life.

I immediately think of GAUDEAMUS IGITUR

Let us rejoice therefore
While we are young.
After a pleasant youth
After a troublesome old age
The earth will have us.

Where are they
Who were in the world before us?
You may cross over to heaven
You may go to hell
If you wish to see them.

Our life is brief
It will be finished shortly.
Death comes quickly
Atrociously, it snatches us away.
No one is spared.

Long live the academy!
Long live the teachers!
Long live each male student!
Long live each female student!
May they always flourish!

Long live all maidens
Easy and beautiful!
Long live mature women also,
Tender and loveable
And full of good labor.

Long live the State
And the One who rules it!
Long live our City
And the charity of benefactors
Which protects us here!

Let sadness perish!
Let haters perish!
Let the devil perish!
Let whoever is against our school
Who laughs at it, perish!

I am making some progress and headway! I have read the first sentence and then given some respectful thought to Gaudeamus Igitur

The song dates to 1287 and was already known by the time of founding of the first European university, the University of Bologna. It is in the tradition of carpe diem (“seize the day”), with its exhortations to enjoy life.

My suspicions are immediately aroused, for I ask myself WHY we must exhort ourselves to rejoice and be happy. If our blessings are innumerable, why are we admonished to count them? The lady doth protest too much, methinks. IF there were some positive perennial attitude so endemic and systemic to our psyche that it was ceaseless and unremitting, how would we be aware of its presence and nature and give it a name? It would be necessary for some totally alien yet articulate being to visit us from another galaxy, and notice with astonishment that we are all X. The aliens say “Why, you are all X constantly, from birth til death, but among our species, only one or two are X per century, and then only late in their lifespan.” We would be quite perplexed and say “what is this X of which you speak?” Of course, the aliens would not be saying X, but some unpronounceable word in their native language. They would study our languages for a bit, notice that an ancient word for Earth is “Gaia”,

and they would coin for us the word “gaiant”. We would say “oh, you mean, gay, happy.” They would explain, “No, gaiant is far more profound that mere happiness which comes and goes. Can’t you see it, cant you feel it? Oh how we wish we could be as gaiant as each of you if only for one moment.”

I have just now imagined the unimaginable and given it a name: “gaiant.” If you press me to be more specific, perhaps I shall become uneasy and desperate and invoke some argument about Hitler. But, no, it is too early in this game to become desperate enough for that tact. So I will explain that gaiant simple refers our inherent “Buddha nature”. We are already everything that we should be, we are simply not aware of it. All we need to do is become aware that we already where we want to be and we shall be enlightened.

It is sort of like that old Shaker hymn:


Tish says,

Gaint? I think not. Buddha nature? Nah. Too reminiscent of Plato’s – admittedly paraphrased – “men only do bad things because they don’t understand what’s good for them…” In Townsend’s case “men are already perfected, they just don’t act that way.” Huh?
Sorry William, I’m snowed in and thus, trolling your facebook page.


Tish, sorry for me or sorry for you? I think you are a wonderful reader to have on my page. If I can answer your questions, then I have helped you, and if I cannot answer your questions, then you have helped me. So, in the spirit of Nietzsche, if this does not kill me it can only make me stronger. I am close enough to this scheduled meeting to attend. The reading is not that long, and is on-line, free. I am trying to psych myself up to read Emerson’s address and find something worthwhile to ask or say. One of may all time favorite lines is from Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus” essays: “posterity, that paltry eternity.” Somewhere in Book III of the Iliad, Glaukos and Diomedes meet upon the field of battle, and have that discourse about how a generation of humans is like the leaves which fall from the trees at the end of a season and are no more. All the remains to a few is the fame of their life which lives on in the collective memory of future generations. Now for some reason Camus considers such posterity a paltry and impoverished; but does Camus consider it paltry for the real reason that our planet will perish in less than a million years. When King Solomon wrote “the sun also rises” and when Hemingway lifted that for his novel title, people took for granted that the sun always would rise; they assumed that earthly life as we know it is some kind of eternal given, continuing on for perpetuity.

Of course, I dashed this off quickly and fancifully yesterday as I read the first sentence of Emerson’s address. I have some friends who are gay and lesbian. Gaia is a word which meant Earth, but Earth in the pagan sense of a goddess spirit I suppose. The beginning of Emerson’s address reminded me of the optimism and youthful joy of college life, which of course reminded me of Gaudeamus Igitur which is supposed to be the oldest known college song. I am always suspicious of people which exhort us or command us to do anything. Everyone says “Have a nice day!” “Have a blessed day!” “Enjoy your day!” “Take care!” “Enjoy!” “Be well!” “God Bless” etc, etc, … and who are these people with the audacity to feel they must tell me how my day should be, and with what hubris do they feel that their exhortations will have some causal impact upon the course of my day or my life; with what presumption do they feel that God, if there is a God, would need their commentary to work His divine will, since it is my understanding that God provides for the birds who neither sow nor reap, and certainly never pray or petition; a God who already knows our needs even before we ask. And in what sense doe we even know good from evil, that we may presume to know what good is, and then wish or will it upon others. When Joseph’s brothers came to him in Egypt to ask his forgiveness, Joseph said, “You intended evil for me but God transformed your evil into good, because my perilous adventures eventually brought me to a position of power and influence where I can save my relatives from the famine (all obviously paraphrased).”


Granting the discontinuity inherent in such Facebook posts, which are limited in length, I continue…

The spirit of school addresses, and rousing songs such as Gaudeamus is to exhort us to maintain some positive desirable frame of mind which should be so natural to us as to require no reminder or exhortation. No one encourages us or reminds us to inhale and exhale.

But then, it occurred to me that perhaps there is some fundamental quality or characteristic which all humans across all eras share, which is so intrinsic that we are unaware of it. If we where a species of scorpion which had come to be the dominant species of the planet, we would have individuals who are the most beautiful, handsome, noble, intellectual charismatic scorpions, and we would have the vast rucktive bulk of mediocre scorpions, and then we would have some hideously ugly, horrendously stupid, or unspeakably evil scorpions. But would we EVER grasp the essential fact that we are scorpions; a fact so immediately obvious to some alien species, who materializes from deep space, through many hyperdimensions, steps out of their tardis portals, espies us from afar, and with osteum agape, exclaims “Gods! They are SCORPIONS!”

(and if your curiosity is aroused by my word RUCTIVE, it is not my word, but my hero, Wallace Stevens, so its ok … nyah nyah


Now, I am by natural a left wing liberal, who leans so far to the left as to be socialist, yet enough a child of the 1950s cold war to be ashamed to call myself a Communist. But I am definitely not a Conservative, since I never caught on to the knack of creating wealth or conserving it, so I have nothing to converse, and naturally anyone with nothing has no vested interested in conserving status quo, since the status of my quo stinks, and has every reason to support spreading the wealth, since it is not my wealth to spread. All this of course means that I am the sworn eternal enemy of all conservative right-wing Republicans, and must avail myself of every opportunity to piss them off and rub their noses in their own kaky-dooty.

Therefore, I coin the term “gaiant”, because it suggests the latent homosexuality in us all which conservatives have in even greater measure than liberals, since their self-loathing and repression concentrates it in the exquisite alembic of denial to a pure nectar of same-sex concupiscence encased in a coating of white sepulchral moral high ground. Gaiant also sounds like Giant, and we see ourselves as giants at the center of the universe, central to almighty God’s great plans for us for surely those who “cannot enter the kingdom of heaven except they become as a little child” must first become proud puffed up giants who conquer the universe. And scriptures do tell us that “in those days there were giants.” So I have pissed off the right wing conservatives by pushing their homophobic button, and next, by alluding to the Earth Goddess, which offends their inherent Abrahamic monotheism (and of COURSE our one God is a MALE and not a FEMALE, because a phallus is every so much more interesting and threatening than a maidenhead.)


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