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At the beginning of Chapter I, Emerson describes true solitude as going out into nature and leaving behind all preoccupying activities as well as society. When a man gazes at the stars, he becomes aware of his own separateness from the material world. The stars were made to allow him to perceive the "perpetual presence of the sublime." Visible every night, they demonstrate that God is ever-present. They never lose their power to move us. We retain our original sense of wonder even when viewing familiar aspects of nature anew. Emerson discusses the poetical approach to nature—the perception of the encompassing whole made up of many individual components. Our delight in the landscape, which is made up of many particular forms, provides an example of this integrated vision.

Unlike children, most adults have lost the ability to see the world in this way. In order to experience awe in the presence of nature, we need to approach it with a balance between our inner and our outer senses. Nature so approached is a part of man, and even when bleak and stormy is capable of elevating his mood. All aspects of nature correspond to some state of mind. Nature offers perpetual youth and joy, and counteracts whatever misfortune befalls an individual. The visionary man may lose himself in it, may become a receptive "transparent eyeball" through which the "Universal Being" transmits itself into his consciousness and makes him sense his oneness with God. In nature, which is also a part of God, man finds qualities parallel to his own. There is a special relationship, a sympathy, between man and nature. But by itself, nature does not provide the pleasure that comes of perceiving this relationship. Such satisfaction is a product of a particular harmony between man's inner processes and the outer world. The way we react to nature depends upon our state of mind in approaching it.

In the next four chapters—"Commodity," "Beauty," "Language," and "Discipline"—Emerson discusses the...
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