Essay: The Bishop of Our Possibilities

There is a moment in one of Vladimir Nabokov's novels when the narrator sees a mirror being unloaded from a van on a street in Berlin. Suddenly the mirror, by a tilt of grace, becomes "a parallelogram of sky."

A sentence of Ralph Waldo Emerson's is sometimes like that: the mind held at an unexpected angle ... a sudden burst of lovely blue light. It is not a transcendental illumination, exactly. Transcendentalism was a short-lived American moonshine. Emerson's light is brighter. It glows with an eerily sweet intelligence and morning energy. Emerson's sentences make...

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