Wednesday, December 23, 2009

a bit of philosophy

"to be great is to be misunderstood" - this quote given by Ralph Waldo Emerson (in his essay Self Reliance) has always interested me. what does it mean? is he really saying what he means or as all good writers do, has he left it to the readers own interpretation? personallly, i think it's the latter. is he referring to the greats of his time? the initial interpretation of this quote puts in my mind thoughts of albert einstein or men/women like him whose intelligence made them misunderstood because their intelligence reached a level that few truly understood. but when put in context the quote takes on a whole new meaning that i never before saw. Emerson's essay Self Reliance encourages confidence and strength to know who you and and then live who you are. as life experience has taught me, my greatest qualities have been discovered in times when i feel alone and misunderstood. "great" has limitless definitions, it is not confined to only those who are smart, talented, wonderful, perfect, etc... i think emerson puts this on an individual level. sometimes you will be misunderstood for what you are great at. "great" qualities emerge in misunderstanding, self reliance is achieved through great qualities. so in my mind the quote is just as true if changed to: "to be misunderstood is to be great".

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