Oh Yeah. Emerson.

24 MB MP3

So David has been laboring mightily for two weeks now to give us all the day off today. He did this by listening through hours of interviews about one of Chris’s great loves, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and by creating out of them a brand-new hour of documentary, of Chris chasing the ghost and the spirit of Ralph.

It’s a gorgeous documentary. I know this because I’m listening to it right now, on July 4th. I am listening to it now only because, as I was just making plans with Katherine to watch the fireworks, she, in her car with a dog, asked me if I were enjoying the show.

Aha. The show. So for one exquisitely postmodern moment, Katherine, her dog and I — she and the dog in her car and I in my living room and all of us on the phone together — just listened to Chris’s voice and Dave’s handiwork. Dave is in the Adirondacks right now enjoying the day off he gave us all and, well, only he knows where the audio is, so I promise I’ll have it up on the site tomorrow.

But in the meantime I am surrounded, here in Allston, by garden parties, on my way out the door to enjoy the little bit of the fireworks that Katherine swears you can see in Belmont. Happy Fourth of July.

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  • loki

    Great show! Emerson as bluesman!

  • msrichards

    Why is the show not archived so that we can haer it???

  • Potter

    It is archived! And I just heard it. What a lift! This is a wonderful show! Great guests, great sound! Thank you!!!

  • johne

    Myself an Emerson fan to a fault, I’m glad to make him the subject of my first post. Reading him is a lesson in how much he anticipated and created this American culture we live in now. He proves himself perpetually relevant. Here’s a specific example. At the beginning of his essay Compensation, he portrays a man at the pulpit preaching rote orthodoxy about the Last Judgment to his congregation. Emerson thinks it’s all patent nonsense, as any aware and reasoning person ought to, yet he notes, “No offence appeared to be taken by the congregation at this doctrine. As far as I could observe, when the meeting broke up, they separated without remark on the sermon.� But he goes onto say, “Men are wiser than they know. That which they hear in schools and pulpits without afterthought, if said in conversation, would probably be questioned in silence.�

    This has immense practical import. Emerson is saying that if the preacher, rather than speaking from the privileged position of the pulpit on high, is placed on equal footing, on the level plane of one on one, face to face contact, that is, submitted to the test of direct personal experience, the listener, instead of accepting what’s said without question, would naturally confront and challenge him, treating the preacher as an interlocutor and not a superior.

    I can’t help but see the application to the banshees and browbeaters that currently populate our televisions. We, a nation of TV viewers, are content to sit back and allow these pseudo-experts and pundits to yell and scream at us, bully and intimidate us, for apparently no other reason that they happen to reside behind the glowing screen. If we were to actively imagine them sitting face to face beside us, thereby removing any implied differential of power, we would see them as they really are, people with no special claims beyond our own. And I think we’d be much more likely to tell these rude, loud, horrible guests to get the hell out, and expel them from our living rooms. For we are, after all, by tuning in, inviting these people into our homes. And, leaving it to Emerson again, “Let us sit at home with the cause. Bid the invaders take the shoes from off their feet, for God is here within.�

    Whether from the pulpit or the pundits, we must continually take back the right and dignity of our primary experience. This is Emerson’s emphatic message. Emerson called this country “this our talking America.� He saw that there would be those who would seek to intimidate and manipulate through earsplitting and bombastic rhetoric. He felt it imperative therefore that each person lay claim to his or her own voice, and speak from direct experience. A site like this encourages exactly that. Just wanted to say thanks for the work, and keep it up.

    John Elias

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  • Sandy Asmussen

    Regarding the broadcast of Oh yeah, Emerson on Sept. 4, 2006, can anyone help complete and/or correct this quotation for me? “I walk outside each morning into the same world as …..Homer and ………..” Not sure if I even have the beginning correct, but it a wonderful way to approach each day. Thank you!

  • rebecca

    Christopher,

    I love your work, and want to thank you for sending along the note about, “Whose Words These are. ” What a great series! I have passed it on to several poets/faculty.

    I currently have students listening to your interview, Oh Ya, Emerson. It’s a classic, as is all the work you’ve done with the Transcendentalists. I wasn’t able to find it by searching the archive, so I’m glad I saved the URL in a document in my files. I hope you are doing well. I am still warming up to the new technologies–but love curling up with a text, electronic or paper, during the turning of the frost. Keep those fires burning.