Discussion Moderator: Emerson Annotations

One of the main themes students noticed throughout the first half of Emerson’s Divinity School Address is about the importance in finding beauty in everyday life. Some students identified Emerson’s description of finding beauty in several different things such as nature, the mysterious, and the divine. In the first paragraph, Emerson clearly talks about beauty in nature in both during the daytime and the night. Arthurflores notes Emerson’s colorful descriptions:

“Emerson is using great detail to describe the joy and beauty of life. He describes the sunshining as fire, which really helps the reader visualize the color. He also notes that nighttime does not take away this beauty in any way, rather it may help it.” https://hypothes.is/a/AVLl_7QdvTW_3w8Ly72w

After talking about nature and the beauty it holds in ways we cannot fully understand, Emerson starts to zoom out and talk about beauty in the mysterious and the universe. He writes, “But when the mind opens, and reveals the laws which traverse the universe, and make things what they are, then shrinks the great world at once into a mere illustration and fable of this mind. What am I? and What is? asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched.” On this, mcgrainr believes that “Emerson is saying that the world we live in is beautiful in its natural workings, but when one thinks about the laws of the universe, bigger more existential questions come about such as who are we and why are we here?”:https://hypothes.is/a/AVLYHqkAvTW_3w8Ly6AC

Several other students also saw this similarity noting that Emerson wants us to “open our minds up [to] see the abstract things around us like human spirit and curiosity.” While Emerson writes about this beauty in abstract and sometimes confusing ways, its clear that students caught onto this theme and understood the essence of what he was trying to say.

Upon sifting through the second half of annotations posted in our hypothesis group. There seems to be a couple different themes that are resonating amongst our class. One theme in particular that students of our class began to notice was Religion. When it comes to religion, Emerson expresses his view on the theme of religion in many different ways. In the lower half of his Divinity School Address it is evident in our classes’ annotations these expressions were picked up. According to the annotations Emerson has a very high view of religion so far as to say the way he described it is poetic. Other annotations go on to say he is also extremely philosophical in his choice of words regarding religion. Going further into this religious theme, our class expresses more in-depth opinions on what they think Emerson’s perception of religion is. According to some like in Bnawoichiks annotation: https://hypothes.is/a/AVLiwpQhvTW_3w8Ly7aY. Emerson does hold religion in high regards but only if used properly. Not only in this quote but throughout his address there are subtle hints that seem to be making fun of religion or criticizing it at first glance. The reality being that he is not criticizing religion, but criticizing the fact mankind’s approach to it is all wrong.

This critique of religion also bring up an important theme that out class in a way indirectly addresses. The theme I am speaking of is autonomy. Towards the end of the class annotations they touch on what is believed to be Emerson’s interpretation of genuine religious use. This genuine use in a way is supposed to make people a little more free thinking and independent. Only when man gets too caught up in tradition, themselves, or doing what others think is good do we really lose sight of true religion. One annotation that caught my eye was made by Stephanie.Martinez: https://hypothes.is/a/AVLrhP7HvTW_3w8Ly9XB. Her annotation states that people should do things on their own merit because they truly want to do good, and anyone pretending to do good for other will never be genuine only an imitator. This is a great statement because it shows the difference between those seeking attention for doing goof and those actually doing good.

Jeremy Lohr & Phillip Nieto

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