During the last week, we have dissected and interpreted passages from Nature. Specifically, we have interpreted Emerson’s reference to the transparent eye. I want to take a look further into this passage and reflect my thoughts on to what Emerson means.
“Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough… I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of god.
Emerson does a fantastic job at setting up the scene at the beginning of this quote. He paints a very Georgic scene representing the wilderness in its everlasting divinity. His next part is very intriguing to me. He exclaims that he has no exasperations of good fortune, which entails me to believe that Emerson wants to be in the woods not for any physical or monetary gain, but to observe what our world has to offer throughout its vast areas of wilderness. He’s actually so excited to be in the wilderness that he’s slightly fearful of his excitement.
I personally feel that this is exactly how wilderness should be perceived. People should not want to visit nature to observe gain, but should perceive nature as pure and innocent. It’s within the nature of all humans to want to receive perpetual gain out of spending time on something, but in this instance, you should want to venture out into the wilderness solely for the pleasure and excitement of being outside.
The part about casting off his years and the snake ties together as a metaphor. Emerson is casting off his years just like a snake sheds its skin to make room for new skin. He’s depicting this sense of return to youthfulness, while still proceeding on further into life.
All of these sentences fit together to prepare us for the segment about the transparent eye. So far, Emerson has painted a picture and metaphorically explained how people should perceive the wilderness not as a place for monetary gain, but as a place for emotional gain; that is, solely being in nature for the sake of being there.
The transparent eye metaphorically represents this message. He’s saying that he’s an eye: meaning he can see and observe all the things around him, but he’s transparent in the sense that he’s just visiting the wilderness. He’s not a permanent residence of the wilderness, but he’s something that can be seen right through because he’ll only be there for a short time.
Emerson does a fantastic job, in my opinion, of asserting the fact that humans should not visit nature for the sake of gain, but solely for the sake of eternal pleasure; and that nature should be preserved for all the years to come.