May 25th, 2005

beachy

Today's Forgotten English

illfare
The condition of faring badly; adversity; the opposite of welfare.
--Sir James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1901


Birthday of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), the American essayist and poet who greatly influenced Henry David Thoreau and many others. Emerson's best-known essay, "Self-Reliance" (1841), exemplified a spirit of individualism in America that would help shape modern times. In the essay he stressed: "I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. ... Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom, and trade, and office, the face which is the upshot of all history that there is a great responsible thinker and actor moving wherever moves a man." But along with his salute came an appeal for personal responsibility: "Do not tell me of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong."

Yay, rugged individualism! If only it was more prevalent in postmodern times as well.

-The Gneech
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