Emerson writes that "the pith of each man's genius contracts itself to a very few hours." As the history of literature contains only a few original ideas that have been worked and reworked, so the history of society reveals only a very few spontaneous human actions beyond "custom and gross sense." Although we attribute great importance to the calamities of life, they actually have no lasting meaning.
Grief does not bring us any closer to the people we have lost, and it does not change who we are.
The balanced individual who accepts life will extract what can be enjoyed from it.
A man may thrive anywhere, under the "oldest mouldiest conventions" as well as in "the newest world." Emerson advises living to the best of our abilities in the present moment, "accepting our actual companions and circumstances," approaching each day as "a sound and solid good," and making the best of what life brings, the bad as well as the good.
Essays: Second Series, including "Experience," was issued in 1876 as the third volume of the Little Classic Edition of Emerson's writings, in 1886 as the third volume of the Riverside Edition, in 1906 as the third volume of the Centenary Edition, and in 1983 as the third volume of the Collected Works published by Harvard.
The essay has been separately published, and also included in such collected editions as the 1940 Modern Library The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (edited by Brooks Atkinson), the 1965 Signet Classic Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (edited by William H.
Constant criticism of various institutions and courses of action has led to widespread indifference.
Emerson urges the reader to tend to his own life as it is.
The experience of life is confusing, Emerson writes at the beginning of the essay.
Gaining perspective on life while we are engaged in living is difficult.