(From Emerson’s “Chicken Soup
for the Teenage Over-Soul”)
There is one mind common to individual men. Every mind is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. But sometimes my mind seems to get just a little bit crazy — at least, such as it happened, one awful week back in 1819.
Janice and I had been courting for an entire year; a span which, as is widely known, presents itself to the high-schooler as an eternity. Our love seemed a fire that, having kindled its first embers in the nook of a private bosom, enlarged until it warmed and beamed upon multitudes of men and women, upon the universal heart of all, lighting up all nature with its generous flames. One Sunday, however, I was surprised by her unexpected appearance at my bed-room door: “There’s something I must tell you.”
That we would conduct a ‘relationship talk’ was manifest; but its terrible import, ah! I knew not then.
“Last night Jeffrey Roth and I pitched fierce woo,” she informed me, “and I have pledged my heart to him.” She followed with the usual: “I would never do anything to hurt you, Ralph. I shall always love you.”
My face must have turned white, for I felt the blood leave me, much as the flowing river pours for a season its streams into the sea. I trembled with anger, sinking into the soft arms of that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other; the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the All-Seeing Eye, from which Jeffrey and Janice’s misdeeds find no safe harbour; the eternal ONE.
Janice was disarmed by my solitary reverie. “Must you be like this?” she asked. “Can we not be friends?”
I desired to strike her, repeatedly, in the shoulder, until the whole of her arm became swollen and distended and, consequently, un-useable; but instead I could only stammer: “Please, leave me now. I will see you in classes to-morrow.”
What blessed power guided me through those next few, horrid hours? I sat on my bed and cried and cried; I attempted to consume an entire gallon of buttermilk; I thought morosely of Janice as I played our favorite hymns, over and over, on my tiny bed-room harmonium. Due to our mutual participation in the Divine Mind, my mother sensed my agony and brought in a plate of her trademark apple fritters.
“Mother,” I asked, “why must it hurt so much?”
My mother looked at me lovingly, her eyes sad and serious, but her tone conspiratorial. “The answer to your question, my son, lurks right above your head.”
Above my head? I slowly turned my gaze skyward… and there, tacked above my bed, was a treasured lithograph of my boyhood idol, the 18th-century spiritualist Emanuel Swedenborg. I immediately thought, as my dear mother must have, of Swedenborg’s New Jerusalem, #191, which reads, “Inner struggles help our good traits and true ideas to get control over our bad traits and false ideas. They strengthen the truth in us and unite it with our good parts.”
Ah, crafty mother! Ah, trusty Swedenborg! Forever, in my heart, will you remain – the twin suns of my being!