Over at the thoughtbot blog there’s an article about the myth of the vim learning curve. I think everything said about vi/vim can equally be applied to Emacs. The path to getting up and running isn’t as daunting as you might think:

Go to your shell and type vimtutor. The tutorial that’s presented is excellent and you’ll be through it in no time. Once you’re done, you’ll have the rudiments needed to get your work done. You won’t be fast yet, no; but you’ll be competent.

There’s a similar feature in Emacs. To start the tutorial just type C-h t (that’s Control-h and then t).