When much intercourse with a friend has supplied us with a standard of excellence, and has increased our respect for the resources of God who thus sends a real person to outgo our ideal; when he has, moreover, become an object of thought, and, whilst his character retains all its unconscious effect, is converted in the mind into solid and sweet wisdom,—it is a sign to us that his office is closing, and he is commonly withdrawn from our sight in a short time.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Nature, ch. 5 (1836, revised and repr. 1849).
Emerson is making an allusion to Jesus as well as to his fear that redemption, and for that matter reality itself, may always be just beyond our grasp. Stanley Cavell has seized on this tragic aspect of Emerson by highlighting his use of the terms "handsome and unhandsome" to characterize our ways of knowing the world, punning on "grasping," "hand" and "handsome."