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In A Brown Study, 14

August 19, 2016

And God said, “I’m lonely, so I’ll make me a man.” So He did. Then God saw the man was lonely, so He made him a woman. That’s when the fun began, and I don’t think God has been lonely since, for he has much work to do keeping up with the troubles men and women get into. Well, anyway, that’s my opinion.

Man is a social creature. He needs others around him to support and validate him. Of course, the opposite can happen. Not all friends support and validate us.

Our friends (and relatives) have power. They can lead us into temptation or help us get out of it. We must choose our friends carefully, for they can help us withstand the harmful affects of temptation and keep us from feeling lonely.

Nathaniel Hawthorne had interesting friends including Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), a Transcendentalist poet and writer. Emerson must have been an occupant of a brown study, for he wrote, “Many are the thoughts that come to me in my lonely musings, and they drift so strange and swift, there’s not time for choosing.Which to follow? For to leave any seems a loosing.”

Emerson, a neighbor known as the “sage of Concord”, invited Hawthorne into his social circle, reporting Hawthorne was shy and stayed silent at gatherings. Later he wrote, “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s reputation as a writer is a very pleasing fact, because his writing is not good for anything, and this is a tribute to the man.” Emerson’s essays and verse have not transcended the time, and indeed, Transcendentalism is probably a lost cause.

When are novels worthless? What friend would believe a man’s work had no importance? Hawthorne’s novels and stories illustrate his time, a human nature which has not significantly changed since his day, and they examine themes that are universal and timeless.

After attending Hawthorne’s funeral in 1864, Emerson wrote, “I thought there was a tragic element in the event that might be more fully rendered in the painful solitude of the man, which I suppose could no longer be endured, and he died of it.”

I wonder at the “solitude” of a man with an active imagination, a purposeful pen, and enthusiastic readers. Hawthorne had an adoring wife, three children, and an assortment of well-known people who claimed friendship. They seem to deny the “solitude” of a Goodman Brown. We don’t need a host of friends. A few good ones will probably do.

We are all enigmas. Our friends know only a part of us — the part we can share. May God bless us, everyone of us, for God values our work, knows our weakness and strength, and supports us.

to be contd.


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