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This quote from Emerson's "Self-Reliance" is preceded by a list of individuals who are considered great including Socrates, Pythagoras, Jesus, Copernicus - all people who, in their time, were misunderstood. Emerson asks before this list if it is so bad to be misunderstood. His point is that we often do not understand someone at first; it is only after time that we come to understand what a person says and then, that misunderstood person's words and ideas, are seen from a clearer perspective (that of the distance of time) and the person is considered great. Ultimately, Emerson says, if a person is not understood by others because the person thinks differently from the masses, perhaps that person is actually a great thinker and innovator.
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