chapter  2
26 Pages

An Origins Myth for the Analects

In a sermon on gratitude, Ralph Waldo Emerson eloquently observes the force and import of the examples of others for our moral lives. He remarks:

[A] cause of lively gratitude is a blessing a little beyond home, the acquaintance we have, near or remote, with persons of great worth. A cultivated heart and mind, a fi nished character, is the most excellent gift of God, the most excellent thing out of us that we can form an idea of. It is the plainest revelation of God, the thing most like God, more plain and persuasive than any book can be. How far more exciting is this spectacle of living virtues than the dead letter which describes the same virtues. I look upon the persons of fi ne intellectual endowments and of magnanimous dispositions whom it is or has been my fortune to know, as my apostles and prophets. They perform to us the offi ce of good angels; they show us to what height active virtue can be carried; the thought of them comes to us in the hour of despondency and of temptation, and holds us up from falling.1