If a man dogmatize in a mixed company on Providence and the divine laws, he is answered by a silence which conveys well enough to an observer the dissatisfaction of the hearer, but his incapacity to make his own statement. These two concepts might seem to be almost completely opposite of each other. The theory of the mechanic forces is another example. I object to the idea that Emerson believed in a material compensation; if he did, he acknowledges that material compensation is only a sign of these other guises of compensation. The guises of pleasure and pain are those of mental states, a sort of transient happiness or sadness that might be caused by the positive and negative events in life.

My proposal for tackling this question is the concept of wisdom, defined as a better understanding of your place and purpose in the world, as the compensation for human experience. The absolute balance of Give and Take, the doctrine that every thing has its price,–and if that price is not paid, not that thing but something else is obtained, and that it is impossible to get any thing without its price,–is not less sublime in the columns of a leger than in the budgets of states, in the laws of light and darkness, in all the action and reaction of nature. How does Emerson reconcile a universe wherein everything is perfectly balanced in nature with the ethical necessity for people to act with virtue? So far, I have stated that the compensation for unfortunate circumstance, or pain, is wisdom, which is tangible through two concepts: The gain is apparent; the tax is certain. He indicates great wrongs which must be revised.


Still more striking is the expression of this fact in the proverbs of all nations, which are always the literature of reason, or the statements of an absolute truth, without qualification. The same guards which protect us from disaster, defect, and enmity, defend us, if we will, from selfishness and fraud. There is no penalty to virtue; no penalty to wisdom; they are proper additions of being.


emersons essay on compensation summary

Thus do all things preach the indifferency of circumstances. If you make the criminal code sanguinary, juries will not convict. If the south attracts, the north repels.

But because of the dual constitution of things, in labor as in life there can be no cheating. We can no more halve things and get the sensual good, by itself, than we can get an inside that shall have no outside, or a light without a shadow.


On winged feet, Lo! Look at those who have less faculty, and one feels sad, and knows not well what to make of it. Take what figure you will, its exact value, nor more nor less, still returns to you.

Always pay; for, first or last, you must pay your entire debt. This confusion is in between selection.

Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson – Compensation Summary & Analysis

Our strength grows out of our weakness. First Series Essays: Because this balance is a bit difficult to conceptualize, let me demonstrate essaay an example. Newer Post Older Post Home. The documents, too, from which the doctrine is to be drawn, charmed my om by their endless variety, and lay always before me, even in sleep; for they are the tools in our hands, the bread in our basket, the transactions of the street, the farm, and the dwelling-house, greetings, relations, debts and credits, the influence of character, the nature and endowment of all men.

But the doctrine of compensation is not the doctrine of indifferency. An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man, woman; odd, even; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest; yea, nay.

emersons essay on compensation summary

Compensation Summary and Analysis Appearances to the contrary not withstanding, the natural, spiritual and human realms achieve a stasis or balance between positive and negative forces, Emerson observes. Whilst I stand in simple relations to my fellow-man, I have no displeasure in meeting him. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. There is no tax on the good of virtue; for that is the incoming of God himself, or absolute existence, without any comparative.


To have wisdom is not only to understand how to achieve happiness through our own personal struggles but also to assist others in dealing with their struggles. The poets related that stone walls, and iron swords, and leathern thongs had an occult sympathy with the wrongs of their owners; that the belt which Ajax gave Hector dragged the Trojan hero over the field at the wheels of the car of Achilles, and the sword which Hector gave Ajax was that on whose point Ajax fell.

To improve our lives, we must first focus on and improve ourselves. Or, do men desire the more substantial and permanent grandeur of genius? Amar Rajput September 26, at 1: And such should be the outward biography of man in time, a putting off of dead circumstances day by day, as he renews his raiment day by day.

Compensation by Ralph Waldo Emerson

And each one must somehow accommodate the whole man, and recite all his destiny. Emerson is writing about the law of Karma or of Cause and Effect. You must do what you love to do and be willing to go the extra mile. If there is excess it needs to be moderated for proper balance. Treat men as pawns and ninepins, and you shall suffer as well as they. Emerson puzzles whether to laugh at some situations or let them go without any reaction on face. Because of misericordiaour personal, individual experiences with hardship can be translated into the motivation to help others deal with their hardships.