The Appeal to the Future
The appeal to the future is a great part of life. The boy is allowed to be ignorant & helpless because of the tacit appeal to what he shall be & do. Then comes the young man, the young woman; they have studied much latin and german, but do not know the meaning of this sentence, and are ashamed to use the dictionary, or to say ‘I do not know.’ Consent to be despised as ignorant now, and boldly appeal to the Future, still. You are old if you reckon the short human life but if you compare your years with the eternity into which you advance, to your extreme youth this unskillfulness will seem very reasonable. And this I think is the reason why Genius is said to retain the feelings & freshness of Childhood, because to it the horizon does not shut down a short way before the eye, but opens indefinitely.
Trust the Future & it shall not betray you. The young man finds the present hostile & cold, it pays him no dividend, it bakes him no bread. He takes this to be unequivocal hint that he should abandon his poetic thoughts & all his higher culture & should accept the vulgar maxims of thrift as the only trustworthy truth.
But let him and, on the contrary, according to the Spartan maxim of fighting better in the shade, /use/thank God for/ this cold eclipse as happiest leisure which he shall not always have & bend himself with nimble vigor laying up the stores of rare knowledge, court the sublime muse, and if his lodging is narrow & his fare the Pythagorean bean, regale himself with the August society of all the bards & philosophers, verily he has chosen well, he shall never be ashamed.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks 5:403