Emerson – The foundation of your peace is yourself


Words of wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.

Men have looked away from themselves and at things so long that they have come to esteem the religious, learned and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property.

They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.

But a cultivated man becomes ashamed of his property, out of new respect for his nature.

Especially he hates what he has if he see that it is accidental,–came to him by inheritance, or gift, or crime; then he feels that it is not having; it does not belong to him, has no root in him and merely lies there because no revolution or no robber takes it away.

But that which a man is, does always by necessity acquire, and what the man acquires is living property, which does not wait the beck of rulers, or mobs, or revolutions, or fire, or storm, or bankruptcies, but perpetually renews itself wherever the man breathes.

“Thy lot or portion of life,” said the Caliph Ali, “is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it.” Our dependence on these foreign goods leads us to our slavish respect for numbers.

The political parties meet in numerous conventions; the greater the concourse and with each new uproar of announcement, The delegation from Essex! The Democrats from New Hampshire! The Whigs of Maine! the young patriot feels himself stronger than before by a new thousand of eyes and arms.

In like manner the reformers summon conventions and vote and resolve in multitude.

Not so, O friends! will the God deign to enter and inhabit you, but by a method precisely the reverse.

It is only as a man puts off all foreign support and stands alone that I see him to be strong and to prevail.

He is weaker by every recruit to his banner.

Is not a man better than a town? Ask nothing of men, and, in the endless mutation, thou only firm column must presently appear the upholder of all that surrounds thee.

He who knows that power is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head.”

Our peace is built on our own foundations. The principles and work we design for ourselves, not the popular fancies; The values we cherish, not those we were taught; The life that we actively live.

And it is priceless.


Emerson is dismissive of property, but there is a world of difference between at one extreme consumerism and habitual shopping (which clearly ‘satisfies’ the purchases for a very short period, if at all, before the reality of alienation returns to the passive possessor) and the relationship we feel to anything that we have made or mended.


There can little more rewarding than building, renovating, developing one’s own home and garden.

Related:  Self knowledgealienationfreedompsychology


🦉 © Peter Fairbrother @pjforguk www.pjf.org.uk  🌄

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