Emerson’s Hobgoblins

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.”

We’re familiar with the hobgoblin sentence – yet what was Ralph Waldo Emerson really saying? Emerson isn’t specific in his essay Self-Reliance exactly which steady conformity is foolish and which is wise. He is telling us to think anew each day and goes on to add, “To be great is to be misunderstood.”

Ah, if only the players in last night’s Presidential contests seemed truly great! Instead they tailor their words to what will sway the voters at that moment. Emerson could not have known in 1841 about political pundits, exit polls, marketing firms, speech writers and the like. It all goes against the point of Emerson’s essay to follow our own instincts and ideas. It would be so daring and fresh for a politician to simply state their intent regardless of the consequences. And we may just be ready to listen…

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