Reconciliation of Opposites in Emerson's Fate

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Reconciliation of Opposites in Emerson's Fate

Emerson's Fate is full of interesting ideas. Fate is the absence of chaos. It is rendered void by the intellect; it is the laws of the world and a name for "causes which are unpenetrated".

Emerson explains Fate through nature. "Nature magically suits the man to his fortunes" (1118). Society, slouching in its custom-made "civilization", looks down on nature and it’s cruel and nonsensical disposition. Emerson even states, "Nature is no sentimentalist…the world is rough and surly, and will not mind drowning a man or woman; but will swallow your ship like a grain of dust. The diseases, the elements, fortune, gravity, lightning, respect no persons" (1105). But Emerson pushes beyond the contradiction of "civilized society" versus "savage wilderness", and shows how the very essence of existence---the patterns of life---are displayed and enacted perfectly in nature. For example, forrest fires which scorch hundreds of acres upon acres of life, are essential in the cycle of growth. Life grows out of that devistation. Fate, then, being the idea that nothing happens by "chance" and everything in interconnected, is embodied in nature’s processes. He states, "Wonderful intricacy in the web, wonderful constancy in the design this vagabond life admits" (1120). The web is the web of life; a metaphor often associated with Native American spirituality depicting the interconnectedness of all life.

There is paradox within Emerson’s description of Fate. The first definition of Fate is that it is the "laws of the world". Laws are limits. Limits contrain freedom. To believe in Fate, then, is to sacrifice the liberty which Emerson defines as "the significance of the individual, the grandeur of d...

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...unknown and to put trust into something completly intangible. Accepting the idea of Fate has nothing to do with Christianity, but the ability to rest assured that your entire life and the rest of the universe will occur the way they are suppose to takes the same faith as confiding in any religion.

Emerson’s reaction to the cycle of knowledge versus freedom versus Fate comes through the "reconciliation of opposites". He states, "But our geometry cannot span these extreme points, and reconcile them. What to do? By obeying each thought frankly, by harping, or, if you will, pounding on each string, we learn at last its powers" (1104). What are we to do? There are two quotes from Emerson that help sooth this abbrasion: "the riddle of the age has for each a private solution" (1104); "When there is something to be done, the world knows how to get it done" (1117).
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