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Today is the 126th anniversary of Thomas Carlyle’s death. 

Carlyle was a Scottish historian and sociologist whose thought and writing influenced American Transcendentalism; the letters he exchanged with Emerson comprise hundreds of pages. To my mind, though, he’s an incredible thinker in his own right.

Carlyle wrestled deeply with, and eventually lost faith in, his own Christian tradition; which is part of why I love him so . . . there’s a certain tragic Kierkegaardian existentialism to his struggle.

He wrote about the concept of “The Everlasting Yea,” a sort of divine affirmation of the world – and of faith – “wherein all contradiction is solved: wherein whoso walks and works, it is well with him.” This, for Carlyle, is in contrast to “The Everlasting No,” the denial of the divine in the world, and “The Centre of Indifference” a detached agnosticism.

I find all this beautiful.

But this I love more: Carlyle had an unblinkered awareness of the suffering inherent to the world. He believed the point of life is to make man blessed, not happy, and that the pursuit of happiness is one of the things that prevents people from achieving blessedness.

Ai. Perhaps I like this so because I feel so blessed, and for me, this has little to do with feeling happy, and more to do with gratitude, and acceptance, and – yes – affirmation.

Anyway. My grandfather (Farland‘s father) was the first I ever heard speak of Carlyle, and though he’s no longer alive, some feathered whisper prompted me to write.


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