Essays: Second Series, including "Experience," was issued in 1876 as the third volume of the Little Classic Edition of Emerson's writings, in 1886 as the third volume of the Riverside Edition, in 1906 as the third volume of the Centenary Edition, and in 1983 as the third volume of the Collected Works published by Harvard.
The essay has been separately published, and also included in such collected editions as the 1940 Modern Library The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (edited by Brooks Atkinson), the 1965 Signet Classic Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (edited by William H.
Emerson writes that "the pith of each man's genius contracts itself to a very few hours." As the history of literature contains only a few original ideas that have been worked and reworked, so the history of society reveals only a very few spontaneous human actions beyond "custom and gross sense." Although we attribute great importance to the calamities of life, they actually have no lasting meaning.
Grief does not bring us any closer to the people we have lost, and it does not change who we are.
This confusion affects our perception of our place in relation to nature, and of our powers.
We are unable to see beyond our material existence and to utilize the creative vigor that nature has given us, and cannot distinguish between our productive and unproductive efforts.Emerson refers specifically to his own grief at the death of his son Waldo in 1842.Grief cannot teach us anything, nor can it bring us closer to understanding the material world.Emerson's essay "Experience" was first published without having been delivered as a lecture.It appeared in 1844 in his Essays: Second Series (published in Boston by James Munroe in October of 1844 and in London by John Chapman in November of 1844).Power (used by Emerson to signify a kind of divinely imparted life force) speaks alternately through various examples of humanity but does not remain permanently in any one of them.Emerson emphasizes that philosophical awareness of the shortcomings of human experience does not constitute life itself. Thought and writings on social reform are not successfully translated into the ends toward which they aim.Our innate love of absolutes draws us toward the permanent, but our human constitution requires "change of objects." After we have formed an impression of a book or a work of art, we want to move on, even though our lasting sense of that object may not be fully developed. Each book or work of art offers only partial insight into the whole.Individual men, too, only represent particular aspects of human nature and capability, and do not expand to illuminate traits or ideas beyond those they possess.Each man has a particular talent, and his tendency is to reinforce and capitalize upon that talent rather than to grow in other ways.This self-limitation necessitates our examining all of humankind to gain a sense of the whole.