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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, History:

“Every revolution was first a thought in one man’s mind, and when the same thought occurs to another man, it is the key to that era.”

What is your revolution? When will you give it to the one who is going to change the world? What do you need before you can give it away?

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Commentary

Is it essential that we give it away? While history may indeed record that most revolutions were built on seeds sown by another, history also records that said revolutions were always a few degrees off target. Trotsky misunderstood Marx; and Calvin and Zwingly misunderstood Luther. The danger in giving the seed of revolution to another, is that the seed is somehow mutated in the giving and ends up spawning a revolution that in the end turns out to be nothing close to the original thought. Perhaps the key to meaningful revolution lies in the originator doing more than giving the thought away.

Is that the danger? Or is that the fear?

To be fair to Emerson, one man has the thought, but nothing is done. Another, some time later, has the same thought and changes an era. Both had the same thought for themselves.

Emerson’s essay is, in part, about the historical cycle of relearning. We cycle first through primes, then concepts, then principles, then applications, and back through again at the start – over and over again across time. At every point in time, the thoughts must be our own to truly own them.

So – Trotsky followed, Calvin and Zwingly translated, but maybe none of them ran from start to finish on the principal thought.

My questions move past Emerson and ask if we can effect greater change by giving slices to people with capacities specific to the principle thought. Can we move up to where the thinker is not necessarily in all parts the doer?

In some ways I wonder if that’s a lazy ambition. A quick fix. Perhaps all worthwhile change must wait for that second person – the one who thinks and acts to drive through change.