“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar
I’m wrapping up my Boston trip, actually at the moment I’m sitting on the tarmac at Chicago Midway waiting on my plane to take the next leg of this trip on to Houston. Our Boston trip has been a multidisciplinary trip with several classes being offered. On this trip we’ve heard from a highly accomplished English professor, several leadership professors, and a professor teaching higher education. Dr. Deborah McCollister led our session at the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson. She told us about a speech he gave called The American Scholar, the speech has been nicknamed “America’s intellectual declaration of independence.”
Emerson and others like him (transcendentalists) got some things wrong, but there is also much to learn from him. Emerson is a huge proponent of study, of close examination. He wrote, “Man is surprised to find that things near are not less beautiful and wondrous than things remote.” He believed that close examination would not reduce the beauty of something but would in-fact, give the examiner a deeper understanding of its beauty and wonder. He challenged the graduates to whom he gave the speech to “get close.” Emerson emphasized the importance of action in study, of practical application and relationships. With this in mind here are a few things I learned about “getting close” this week.
First, get close to God. Don’t live life looking at God solely from a distance. God is magnificent from a distance but grows ever more beautiful as you draw near. The peace of God grows stronger, the love of God becomes more relatable… God will not let you down when you draw nearer to him, but you will find ever more mystery and ever greater truth as you grow further into a relationship with him.
Second, get close to people. Yes, there are mean-spirited and spiteful people in the world. At some point, getting close to people will bite you…maybe even literally. But it is worth it. Hear the stories others have to tell. Understand their pain. Rejoice with their success. Celebrate their joy. Getting close to people will both give you support and provide you opportunity to let others see the kind of beauty that only God can create in you.
Third, get close to your vocation and your avocation. Spend time studying your job and your hobbies. Find the beauty and the joy that God offers in both the work we chose and the work we do to pay the bills. Get good at, where possible improved the company you work for. Make your boss look good and give those who work for you opportunity for success.
Finally, get close to your community and where possible your world. Discover and rediscover your community. See your community with new eyes each day. Find what makes your world go round and study those things. Travel, read, watch…be a student of the world God has given us.