vrijdag 29 maart 2013

Ralph Waldo Emerson -- 29 maart 1832

March 29.
I visited Ellen's tomb and opened the coffin.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was een Amerikaans essayist en dichter en een van de invloedrijkste denkers van zijn tijd. Hij hield vrijwel zijn gehele leven een dagboek bij.

Emerson was not afraid to seek revelatory experiences. Two of his most compelling experiences must have been opening the coffins of his wife and son long after they died. "Be it life or death, he had to see it for himself," his biographer writes. He entered the family vault and opened his wife Ellen's coffin fourteen months after she died. Though he simply noted in his journal "I visited Ellen's tomb and opened her coffin," it must have been an extraordinarily powerful experience. Obsessed with death in the aftermath of his wife's tragic death, his sermons suddenly started focusing on life after he opened her coffin. As his biographer writes, "He would no longer live with the dead...Before the year was out, Emerson had resigned his pulpit, moved his mother, sold his household furniture, and taken ship for Europe." He opened the coffin of his son Waldo, who died at the age of five, sixteen years after Waldo's death. Emerson wasn't morbid; rather, these experiences helped him understand in his heart and mind death--not just abstractly, but the death of people he loved. And opening those coffins undoubtedly gave him perspective on the precious fragility and brevity of life.

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