When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra
SOLITUDE AND SOCIETY
We are a living conversation of individuals, each one a sanctuary of solitude unto themselves, and we are an instrument of connection between persons, peoples, traditions, perspectives, and institutions. Our work in the world is measured by the solitudes we support and the connections we communicate. We seek to regain the path to an American Arcadia through a living experiment in simple living and high thinking.
Our conversation connects the traditions of Native America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, composing their various perspectives together into one whole. We draw upon the rational spirit of the American Enlightenment, the transcendental spirit of the American Renaissance and the environmental spirit of the American West to form a unified culture of individual possibility, accessible to all people everywhere who ask the abiding questions of life and death and love and meaning. We believe in the infinitude of the individual as a foundation for the healing of the nations.
Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But, in fact, they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. . . should these faculties have free play, I believe they will open new, deeper and purer sources of joyous inspiration than have as yet refreshed the earth. Let us be wise, and not impede the soul. Let her work as she will. Let us have one creative energy, one incessant revelation. Let it take what form it will, and let us not bind it by the past to man or woman, black or white.
It has been thoughtfully observed that every nation, owing to its peculiar character and composition, has a definite mission in the world. Our seems plain and unmistakable. Our geographical position, our relation to the outside world, our fundamental principles of government, world-embracing in their scope and character, our vast resources, requiring all manner of labor to develop them, and our already existing composite population, all conspire to one grand end, and that is, to make us the perfect national illustration of the unity and dignity of the human family that the world has ever seen.
Frederick Douglass, Our Composite Nationality
A CONVERSATION OF FRONTIER VOICES
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found The honey of peace in old poems. Robinson Jeffers, “To the Stone Cutters”
OPENING VOICES (1763-1823)
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the Executive Government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be. . . Continue reading George Washington (1732-1799)→
We hold these truthsto be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government. . . Continue reading the Declaration of Independence→
Friend and brother: It was the will of the Great Spirit that we should meet together this day. He orders all things, and he has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken his garment from before the sun, and caused it to shine with brightness upon us; our eyes are opened, that we see clearly; our ears are unstopped, that we have been able to hear distinctly the words that you have spoken; for all these favors we thank the Great Spirit, and him only. . . Continue reading Red Jacket, Seneca (1750-1830)→
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Article I. Section 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. . . Continue reading the Constitution of the United States of America→
CONVERSATIONS AT THE FULCRUM (1836-1865)
I read the other day some verses written by an eminent painter which were original and not conventional. The soul always hears an admonition in such lines, let the subject be what it may. The sentiment they instil is of more value than any thought they may contain. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost. . . Continue reading Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)→
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. . . Continue reading Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)→
This great suit has now been carried on through many ages, with various results. The decisions have been numerous, but always followed by appeals to still higher courts. How can it be otherwise, when the law itself is the subject of frequent elucidation, constant revision? Man has, now and then, enjoyed a clear, triumphant hour, when some irresistible conviction warmed and purified the atmosphere of his planet. But, presently, he sought repose after his labors, when the crowd of pigmy adversaries. . . Continue reading Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)→
To the American People: It is with considerable diffidence that I attempt to address the American people, knowing and feeling sensibly my incompetency; and believing that your highly and well improved minds would not be well entertained by the address of a Choctaw. But having determined to emigrate west of the Mississippi river this fall, I have thought proper in bidding you farewell to make a few remarks expressive of my views, and the feelings that actuate me on the subject of our removal. . . Continue reading George Washington Harkins, Choctaw (1810-1890)→
I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that. I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art. . . Continue reading Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)→
The subject announced for this evening's entertainment is not new. Man in one form or another, has been a frequent and fruitful subject for the press, the pulpit and the platform. This subject has come up for consideration under a variety of attractive titles, such as "Great Men," "Representative Men," "Peculiar Men," "Scientific Men," "Literary Men," "Successful Men," "Men of Genius," and "Men of the World;" but under whatever name or designation, the vital point of interest in the discussion has ever been. . . Continue reading Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895)→
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck. . . Continue reading Walt Whitman (1819-1892)→
Selection of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) to be published.
THE CLOSING OF THE FRONTIER (1890-1914)
The mountain winds, like the dew and rain, sunshine and snow, are measured and bestowed with love on the forests to develop their strength and beauty. However restricted the scope of other forest influences, that of the winds is universal. The snow bends and trims the upper forests every winter, the lightning strikes a single tree here and there, while avalanches mow down thousands at a swoop as a gardener trims out a bed of flowers. But the winds go to every tree, fingering every leaf and branch and. . . Continue reading John Muir (1838-1914)→
The pathos of death is this, that when the days of one's life are ended, those days that were so crowded with business and felt so heavy in their passing, what remains of one in memory should usually be so slight a thing. The phantom of an attitude, the echo of a certain mode of thought, a few pages of print, some invention, or some victory we gained in a brief critical hour, are all that can survive the best of us. It is as if the whole of a man's significance had now shrunk into the phantom of an attitude, into a mere. . . Continue reading William James (1842-1910)→
“We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion.” Thus spoke the great Seneca orator, Red Jacket, in his superb reply to Missionary Cram more than a century ago, and I have often heard the same thought expressed by my countrymen. I have attempted to paint the religious life of the typical American Indian as it was before he knew the white man. . . Continue reading Charles Eastman, Santee Dakota (1858-1939)→
Rightly viewed, the whole soul of man is a sort of picture gallery, a grand panorama, in which all the great facts of the universe, tracing things of time and things of eternity, are painted.
Frederick Douglass, “Pictures and Progress”
IMAGES ”Misty Morning on Lake,” Getty Images 473168848 Margaret Fuller, by Chappel, 1872, Wikimedia Commons Frederick Douglass, Ambrotype, 1856, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution