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the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and
after the last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and
sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and
here. God himself culminates in the present moment, and will never
be more divine in the lapse of all the ages. And we are enabled to
apprehend at all what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual
instilling and drenching of the reality that surrounds us. The universe
constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions; whether we
travel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. Let us spend our lives in
conceiving then. The poet or the artist never yet had so fair and
noble a design but some of his posterity at least could accomplish it.

Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off
the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the
rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without
perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells
ring and the children cry-determined to make a day of it. Why
should we knock under and go with the stream? Let us not be upset
and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner,
situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this danger and you are
safe, for the rest of the way is down hill. With unrelaxed nerves, with
morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like
Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its
pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what
kind of music they are like. Let us settle ourselves, and work and
wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and
prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion
which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New
York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through
poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom
and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no
mis-take; and then begin, having a point d’appui, below freshet and
frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set
a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a
Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of
shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. If you stand
right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer
on both its surfaces, as if it were a cimeter, and feel its sweet edge
dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily
conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only
reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and
feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I
drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin
current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish
in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I
know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been
regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect
is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do
not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My
head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it.
My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some
creatures use their snout and fore paws, and with it I would mine and
burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is
somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining-rod and thin rising vapors
I judge; and here I will begin to mine.


WITH A LITTLE more deliberation in the choice of their pursuits,
all men would perhaps become essentially students and observers,
for certainly their nature and destiny are interesting to all alike. In
accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a
family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in
dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fear no change nor
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