Ralph Waldo Emerson
How Emerson’s Quote Has Changed My Life
Have you ever heard of Gary Vaynerchuk? Well, if not Vaynerchuk is a famous motivational speaker and investor who achieved the American Dream. Almost every day of the week Vaynerchuk is always trying to inspire and encourage people to try something different. Likewise, a quote written by Ralph Waldo Emerson states, “The power which resides in him is new nature, and none but he knows what that he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.” This quote is stating that you will not know what you like nor what you are good at until you have tried. Throughout this essay I will be showing how this quote represents myself, the significance of the quote, how this quote will relate to myself in the future and lastly a moment in my life that I had tried something new.
A quote written from Ralph Waldo proclaims that, “The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.” The quote is resembling a, “hidden talent,” that a person may have but may not know that he/she has. What Waldo is trying to explain, is go and try new things, because you may not know if you like it or your good at it until you’ve tried it. The power, that he’s trying to explain is a talent and or gift that you may hold. Furthermore, he addresses the talent being new nature. He is using new nature, as something that a person may not be familiar with. With that, he says none but he knows, meaning the person that has this power, only he may know he has that ability until he has tried it. Throughout the countless amount of quotes Waldo had written, there is still one theme; trying new things can further your success, and you have to be independent and make decisions for yourself, never to rely on others. The power and wisdom that Emerson had while writing these quotes and or books is unexplainable.
Truly listening to my surroundings and peoples stories, made me put a certain perspective on life and the person I am. My main goal as a person, is just to be kind; kindness truly goes a long way with so many people. So many people wanted to be the next, “millionaire,” but my long term goal is to just be kind and grateful for everything that I have. Another key trait that I also have is optimism. I try and surround myself with people that are humble, have good personalities and are realistic. Optimism is not just about hoping that you are going to do good, its gaining confidence that you will succeed. This will also relate to how people will do in the future. If you’re a person that just expect help from everyone else but themself is going to be in a world of hurt later on in life. Waldo states, that you have to try new things, and he said you have to help yourself; and if you rely on others, you are going to be stuck. Like before, Gary Vaynerchuk made a great point in one of his video clips, he said, “The quickest tell that if you’re a winner or a loser is complaining.” He said, “If you are complaining you have no shot to make it long term.” I seek this quote as truth, because if your happy and never complaining, you are not going to care if your poor or rich, you’re going to be happy the way you are and going to have to accept it, because those were your choices. Going off the person that I am, in school it will not change. I go to school to learn new things, meet new people and further education to see how this topic/subject will help me in the future. This quote also reveals about who I am as a person, because I truly am devoted to meet new people and try new things. For example, this past year, I had decided to join new clubs like FBLA. Through this experience, I had realized that I wanted to do a job that was business related instead of agriculture, which was new and was something I liked. Through realization about Ralph Waldos quote, new thing may lead to a bright future.
One moment that changed my life and future in relation to Emerson’s quote of trying something new was a decision based upon the school that I had gone to. In the second to last month of my middle school years, I was faced with a hardship of leaving unbreakable bonds with friends or creating a path for my career. Almost every night I went home from school with a different opinion. Every night at the dinner table, my parents would talk about how much information and hands-on learning Nonnewaug does, rather than being stuck at a desk all day. The thoughts about leaving the people I grown up with, played sports with, and cherished some of my valuable memories were making it that much harder to choose. Throughout the days, which felt like months this decision was haunting me, which would I chose. As I walked off the bus one day, the casual grabbing the mail had become a habit, and I saw a letter addressed to me at the top. Of course, out of curiosity I had to open it to see what it was. As I opened it, my eyes become wider, and the hair on my neck had begun to stick up; and at this moment I had realized it was decision day. As I walked into the house my brain was on overload. Thoughts from everywhere were popping up. I was pacing back and forth around the house, with emotions sad but happy I began to think. This is where Ralph Emerson’s quote comes into play, trying something not everyone does, and taking the path less traveled. After another long, stressful talk I checked of on the piece of paper that I would be attending Nonnewaug High School. Even after having the paper sent in I still had some try of stress that, I did not know anyone, I had no idea about where my classes where, but on the first day of highschool, that stress had gone away. The kids there were so kind and helpful of letting us know where are classes where. Although I did not know anyone, the first day I went to advisory and met one of my best friends Ryan Ng. He had told me that he was from Newtown and also interested in the ag program like I was. Later on I met a couple more kids, until 6th period Biology. I walked in sat and a seat, and across from me was future to being my best friend. Jim introduced himself to me, and asked me if I played any sports and I played baseball and basketball, he said likewise. Right away I felt like, a new bond made been created. Every day after that we began to talk, and he had introduced me to his friend group, and of course it will never be the same as my old school, but it was pretty close. Relating this back to Emerson’s quote, is about a power that you may have until you have tried. Granted committing to a different school is not a power by no means, but Emerson is saying that you have to try new things to see if it either fits you or you like it. Thinking about it now makes me realize what an opportunity I got getting into the school, and also great relationships that you build throughout life.
This year I strive to do bigger and better things. In years past, I have struggled with a few different things including organizational skills and better work ethic. In sophomore year, I was very unorganized, and forgetful. I used to forget something was due until the second to last day, and I could never be able to find anything inside my backpack, I had just thrown stuff in there. This upcoming year, I plan to try out a couple different clubs, for a couple different reasons. One being that it may help me create and build relationships with different people. On the same note, I will be able to experience better leadership and development skills that I will need in the future. Lastly, it will help me out in my senior year, because I will be able to write down different extracurricular activities I had done. This past year, I was disappointed in my work ethic, for some reason it had slowed down a lot since freshman year, so by realizing that I want to go home, study hard for tests and quizzes, hand my work in on time and create a great transcript that colleges can look at. Furthermore, I want to make an impact on sometimes life, it does not have to change their life around, but I want to help people that look like they can be headed down the wrong path, or someone that’s in a tough time. It’s hard, when someone and even myself was in a tough time losing multiple family members this year, but truly with support of friends and family you know that you will always have someone to count on. Although, many kids have awful home life’s, hearing some of them talk about it makes me realize that I’m luckier than most people, knowing that I have so many people that can count on me and I can do the same. So in conclusion this year, the organizational skills and work ethic are going to change; and lastly I want to make an impact on someone who needs help in some sort of way.
In conclusion, Emerson’s quote truly showed me that trying new things, shows that you’re a willing person, and make a difference in your life. Sometimes it’s good to listen to others and get feedback, but other times you have to trust yourself. Some decisions will help you in the future and you always have to be optimistic and willing like Emerson said. Through experiences like my story, I am better understanding of why so many people regret so many things they did not due and telling others to try something new.
Nature in Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Role of Human Harmony
It is undoubtedly a natural and primal instinct that drives humans to search for a universal understanding of our reality. Simultaneously cursed and blessed with self-awareness, we have sought for thousands of years to articulate some sort of connection amongst ourselves, our surroundings, and the divine. In his essay “Nature,” Ralph Waldo Emerson explores the ways in which humans interact with the natural world in order to answer this overarching question of, in his own words, “to what end is nature?” (Emerson 27). At the center of his musings is, amongst other things, how the sense of sight is used to interpret and understand the world around us. There are, Emerson claims, different forms of sight which, depending on which ones we use, can either provide a clear path to understanding nature, or divert our attention from the truth and further obscure our ability to achieve harmony with nature.
Emerson begins his essay by immediately expressing his discontent with the idea of blindly adhering to established religious and philosophical schools of thought. He states that “[t]he foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes” (Emerson 27). In other words, the natural world that we see and interact with is not our own: rather, it is a specific interpretation of it passed down over countless years. It is a pre-made worldview, pre-packaged and habitually passed down from one generation to the next. On the one hand, this is the easy way to understand the natural world, as there is no assembly required: the paradigm through which we can view the world has already been built by those who came before us. But Emerson rejects this notion, asking, “[w]hy should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?” (Emerson 27). Thus marks Emerson’s first rejection of a ‘lesser’ form of sight, instead advocating a more direct interaction with nature. In order to achieve an understanding of the natural world in its purest form, we must dismantle all pre-existing, cookie-cutter philosophies that have invaded our minds and start from scratch. Each individual must construct his or her own paradigm through which to see the world: only then can we each achieve our own personal ‘face to face’ relationship with God and nature. Thus, Emerson denounces sight through the eyes of others, and instead emphasizes an individual-based form of sight.
Following his introduction, Emerson furthers his critique of the forms of sight which he deems unworthy, denouncing the superficiality with which most adults see nature. He notes the wonder with which children see the world, as they have not yet been desensitized to nature’s beauty and distracted by the demands of human society. Some adults, however, still retain this sense of awe: these individuals who have “retained the spirit of infancy into the era of manhood” (Emerson 29) are the true lovers of nature in Emerson’s eyes. Thus, what he advocates here is a form of sight the achievement of which requires a reunion with one’s inner child. This is something that can only be done while experiencing solitude in nature, away from the world’s distractions. The act of separating oneself from artificially constructed human society to silently revel in nature’s purity will, according to Emerson, rekindle a youthful spirit of reverence that will allow one to truly See nature. “In the woods,” asserts Emerson, “is perpetual youth” (Emerson 29).
This is not to say, however, that Emerson sees absolutely no value in surface-level sight. He does indeed view aesthetic pleasure as a necessary stepping-stone to seeing nature on a deeper level, and thus dubs the human eye “the best of artists” (Emerson 31). Scientifically, the human eye absorbs light and relays what we see to the brain. The brain, in turn, interprets these images in such a way that brings us “a pleasure arising from outline, color, motion, and grouping” (Emerson 31). But this is an automatic form of pleasure, as all natural forms hold mystery and beauty within them. This pleasure must be intensified by translating this perceived aesthetic beauty into spiritual beauty.
To outline this process, Emerson breaks down beauty into three properties, the first being its inevitability. As has been established, humans are invigorated by absorbing the pleasures of aesthetic natural beauty. This beauty is ever-changing, yet constant: nature in all seasons, at all hours of the day, in all types of weather, brings some form of pleasure to the eye that observes it. But one who pursues nature’s beauty too eagerly will be ‘mocked’ by it. Thus, one can only truly appreciate nature by submitting to it; by accepting its unpredictability as a necessary piece of its beauty. With this claim, Emerson emphasizes a form of sight that requires the individual to contextualize him or herself within nature: to see oneself as subject to nature’s whims as we live out our socially constructed lives.
Secondly, Emerson declares spirituality to be an essential element in the process of truly ‘seeing’ nature. Nature has always been the backdrop of mankind’s greatest accomplishments, and this provides us with a common inspiration that will forever enhance and drive our creativity. Expanding upon this in his third point, Emerson credits artistic creativity to nature’s ability to stimulate the mind. He explains that artistic creation is driven by an inherent desire for beauty, and to simulate the natural beauty which we perceive is to fulfill that desire. It is a constant, self-perpetuating cycle of interpretation and creation, and yet “[n]o reason can be asked or given why the soul seeks beauty” (Emerson 34).
Thus, these three principles of beauty outlined by Emerson demand a very specific form of sight. One must, first and foremost, retain the mindset of “perpetual youth” that nature provides. With our minds open and our eyes curious, we can then see nature’s beauty in such a way that demands and encourages our contribution to it. Essentially, Emerson rejects the mere aesthetic appreciation of beauty as a true form of sight. Rather, the definition of sight that he offers requires appreciation of and submission to nature; evocation of spiritual connections between nature and the soul; and finding delight in reproducing its beauty. In this sense, nature is “not only the material [that we see], but is also the process and the result” (Emerson 30).
Transcendentalism in Self-reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Idea of the Divinity of Humanity
Transcendentalism asserts the inherent goodness of man for “to the good, (and) to the perfect, he is born” (Divinity School Address 10). His origin is divine and so is his destiny. As he goes through life, he progresses the ladder of divinity. As man continues to make choices to remain virtuous, and beautiful, his nature tends toward transcendental divinity. This transcendentalist tenet goes contrary to Calvinistic doctrine, which posits man’s innate evil and proclivity to sin. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work seeks to elevate man to the level of the divine by making spiritual connections with beauty and virtue.
Emerson reasons that since “God is the all-fair” (Nature: Beauty 54), beauty is godly and celestial and seeing that God created man, man also possess beautiful godliness. In the human perspective, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Emerson states that “(t)he eye is the first circle” (Circle 65) – hence man’s powers to observe, to contemplate, and to discern are central to awakening his divine powers. Man is a beautiful creature and Emerson lauds not only man’s beauty but his ability to identify and replicate it. This beauty abiding in order and symmetry resides “together in the eye and brain of every man” (Fate 150). For centuries, aesthetics is studied by painters, sculptors, musicians etc., and it is the realization and interpretation of beauty that apotheosize man. Man’s ability to discern beauty derives from his intuition which is a God-given faculty which guides him to a higher level. Emerson asserts that “(b)eauty in nature is … the herald of inward and eternal beauty” (Nature: Beauty 55). Nature has its own beauty in equilibrium and continuity as laws and principles ensure a cosmic order. Hence the lasting, timeless beauty inherent in Nature is only reflective of man’s inner beauty. Beauty only begets more beauty, and although diverse and incomprehensible, beauty must be accepted for what it is – divine. Beauty and virtue are inextricably linked as one reflects that “beauty is the mark God sets upon virtue” (Nature: Beauty 60). Virtue can never be painted ugly but embodies the beautiful.
Virtue connects the human soul to God. “If a man is at heart just, then in so far is he God” (Divinity School Address 100). This short syllogism deduces that being just defines and deifies man. Gradually, man moves toward divinity by his own personal and social development. By expressing the attitude of optimism, and the philosophy of progress and utopianism, Emerson reaffirms the natural goodness of man and reinforces optimism where human beings and events are intrinsically good. God is the Omnipotent and Supreme Being, therefore by making these links between intrinsic virtue and man, Emerson qualifies man with the same powers. Just as vice contaminates the soul, virtue purifies and sublimates. “When virtue is in presence, all subordinate powers sleep” (Experience 151). This kind of integrity is a universal principle which allows man to ascend to spiritual rungs. Transcendentalists believe that man can have a direct relationship with God in following his natural noble inclinations which proceed from pure intuition. By degrees, man approaches divinity until there is complete mystic union.
In sum, transcendentalism examines the divinity of humanity. In Emerson’s eyes, virtue and beauty are both human and divine – for man can unearth these values within himself. The latinized epigraph of Self Reliance, “Ne the quaesiveris extra” (Self Reliance 125), which means “Do not seek outside yourself,” is Emerson’s call to independence and self-determination where man charts his own fate and taps into his own divinity. This concept of man’s self-determination is known as homocentrism where man stands as the centre of his own universe.
A Character Analysis of Huckleberry Finn in the Poet by Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The Poet”, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is a short essay describing Emerson’s thoughts on what he believes makes up a poet both in character and in his place in society. Rather than describe a man who simply has the talent for writing poems, Emerson takes the idea of a poet to a different level, contending that a true poet delves deeper into the soul than the average man and therefore is able to speak what others are thinking and feeling but are afraid or unable to say. For this reason, it can be argued that the poet Emerson describes may not be, in all actuality, a poet, but could be a character such as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
Emerson’s poet is not a poet in the typical sense of the word. He is a seeker of truth, who struggles to understand humanity and the world around him. This is true for the character of Huckleberry Finn. From the beginning of the story, Mark Twain makes it clear to the reader that Huck Finn does not come from a high class, or even a middle class, background. He is the lowest member of white society. He is described as uneducated, dirty, with no mother and a drunken father who disappears for months on end, often leaving Huck homeless and hungry. This lack of a “proper education” actually has some benefits for Huck because it means he does not live under the conforms of his society. Being a very curious child, he is constantly in search of truths and, although he struggles with some of the preconceptions taught to him by members of the properly educated society, he comes to his own conclusions. The answers he finds are true in their context but would shock most of his community.
Emerson opens the second paragraph with the statement “The breadth of the problem is great, for the poet is representative.” By this he means that the poet represents all men and can be seen as the idyllic man by the American people. Emerson’s poet lives a life outside of society’s bounds, sometimes isolated, but closer to truth than any normal man could ever be. In a way, Huck Finn also lives his life outside of society’s rigid bounds by refusing to give up his independent spirit, even when the Widow Douglas attempts to clean him up, educate him, and in her words “reform” him.
When Emerson discusses the liberating feeling that a poem can invoke in the reader he says, “If the imagination intoxicates the poet, it is not inactive in other men. The metamorphosis excites in the beholder an emotion of joy. The use of symbols has a certain power of emancipation and exhilaration for all men.” He goes on to call poets “liberating gods”. He is clearly referencing society’s lack of imagination and the lack of motivation to search for deeper meaning. As pointed out by these lines, most people are content to live in the strictly structured confinement they have created for themselves, never venturing out and never daring to question anything. To Emerson, the poet is the man who “liberates” other men from this prison-like society. His poems allow the mind to wander beyond the individual’s selfish thoughts, to find enjoyment in life. Huck is much like this poet in that he questions the morals and rules society has imposed upon him, choosing to follow his own path instead. Huck is able to see the hypocrisy of the general public and the contradictory rules and boundaries they have set for themselves. He cannot grasp the notion of slavery as a “civilized” concept, and cannot comprehend how people can commit heinous acts but go unpunished, while minor frivolous acts, if committed by the wrong person, can lead to execution.
Furthermore, Huck’s decision to escape from civilization, with Jim the slave, and try to create a home in the wilderness, where he feels most secure, is comparable to Emerson’s description of the poet’s closeness to nature. Emerson suggests that most people living in conformity are unfamiliar with nature’s “living” power. Nature is everywhere but most people cannot truly appreciate it the way a poet does. Thus, Emerson calls him a “namer” and “language maker”, imparting on him the task of interpreting nature for the rest of men. Huck, just like the poet Emerson seeks, is more comfortable in nature than he is in civilization.
When Emerson states, “So in regard to other forms, the intellectual men do not believe in any essential dependence of the material world on thought and volition. Theologians think it a pretty air-castle to talk of the spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud, of a city or a contract, but they prefer to come again to the solid ground of historical evidence;” he is talking about man’s connection between the spiritual world and the physical, concrete world, or the ideal world vs. the real world. Most men fall into one of two categories. They are either intellectuals, who see the material world and the world of thoughts as two separate entities, or theologians who view the two as intertwined. Huckleberry Finn, although he does not realize it himself, is able to effortlessly link the two, as a true poet can. The people in Huck’s community, such as the Widow, who try to force him to obey the rules and behave conventionally, keep their thoughts hidden, as they believe them to be unrelated to the material world. Huck cannot accept this lifestyle and chooses to speak his mind, believing that what we think and what we do are directly connected. He views his surroundings practically as well as logically which is what Emerson claims a poet must always do. Emerson’s poet is always aware of his surroundings both intellectually and artistically.
Additionally, Huck Finn does not fill his observations with judgments and preconceived notions. The images of the things he sees are completely honest and realistic. He describes to the reader what he sees truthfully, as he sees it, rather than describing it the way it ought to be described. This makes him the “sayer” and poet that Emerson is searching for.
Emerson ends “The Poet” with a call for anybody that believes himself to be a true poet to come forth. He leaves us with the impression that such a poet has not existed yet in America, but the probability of such a man existing is probable. His descriptions of the man he is looking for fall in line with Mark Twain’s description of Huckleberry Finn and therefore, Huckleberry Finn can very well be the poet Emerson is searching for.
Emerson and His Transcendentalism Ideas
One of the core elements of Emerson’s transcendental ideas that can be found in contemporary American psyche is the intuitive belief. He postulates the encouragement to act freely rather than automatically following popular opinion and put a special emphasis on originality, as the saying goes “be the original thinker, not the follower”. It means that people should use their faculty of mind to think about something and make a decision by relying on their own capacities. They do not have to conform to what society perceived as true because it might be the opposite and conformity really limits one’s mind to go beyond than it can go. In addition, one of the things worth noted in his Self Reliance is “to believe your thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men.” – that is genius (Emerson ). In order to seek for truth, one must not only use their senses and imagination but also in need of the contemplation of soul. Hence, the basic ideas of transcendentalism have become a part in America’s evolution as a strong country.
Transcendentalism reflects well in the concept of the American Dream. It is a concept coined a historian named James Truslow Adam which he described it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.’ This means that everyone should get equal opportunity to be successful in their life and their success is attained by their own capabilities, not by their lineage or status in the society. The basic notion of American Dream lies deeply in the tenets of American Declaration of Independence (Kenton). It is “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Anyone can live their live to the fullest and gained utmost happiness depends on how he or she defines it and according to self-reliance. Thus, in contemporary America, achieving American Dream is associated with those who are able to own house, work in a high position and enjoy access to healthcare and education.
In the intellectual field, Emerson becomes a great model and is responsible for the birth of many American writers that centres transcendentalism as their main concern. The transcendentalism movement is one of the literary independence that proved America has created a uniquely new body of literature. This also showed a clear distinction of something new and free from any European association. Those prominent figures are Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Frederick Henry Hedge and others. Emerson’s great admirer, Thoreau has put self reliance into practice where he lived alone at some moment without interjection of society. In his book, Walden, he wrote about simplicity of things, the nature and about life that is wasted due to conformity to society and the pursuit of worldly materials.
As most of these transcendentalists worked as teachers, this has simultaneously contribute in modelling America’s education system and still relevant to contemporary American psyche. Take Bronson Alcott as an example. He managed to inculcate transcendentalism ideas into a teaching pedagogy called Maxims of Education. This outline incorporates 58 teaching method such as “to teach, by the exercise of reason, to teach, to improve the science of instruction and of mind and to teach with independence” (Alcott). He believed that teachers play important roles in assisting their students to think for themselves as a need in the future. Thus, his words in the maxims are ideals and to kept in mind by teachers. Based on his guidelines, he hoped that future American should be able to think creatively, able to express their own thoughts and able to use their intuitive nature to guide them in searching for the truth.
The Ideas of Transcendentalism and Its Development
During the 18th century in the north, several philosophical movements were beginning to occur. One in particular happening during the market revolution was the Transcendentalism movement. It involved the combination of European Romanticism and the lifestyles of the United States. Just like other movements happening, this one started with one person and grew by people agreeing with that one person, in this case Ralph Waldo Emerson. Those who continued to follow this movement created artwork, wrote poems, and had ideas made for this term. Transcendentalism has more than one understanding and has evolved since then.
During the market revolution, civilization was evolving with more and more ideas every day. With that beginning, it was “encouraging the identification of American Freedom” (Froner 268). Emerson is known to be the father of transcendentalism and wrote about alongside Henry David Thoreau. Emerson believed that one could have their own “judgment over existing social traditions and institutions” (Froner 268). One could have more freedom to think whatever they wanted to instead of having to think thoughts they are influenced to follow and spread to others. Emerson helped shaped the becoming of others and the nation’s self-identity.
One of Emerson’s writings includes “The American Scholar,” where he “urged Americans to stop looking to Europe for inspiration,” but instead do what they want to do for themselves (ushistory.org). Transcendentalists believed that God also had his part, but anyone could freely think what they wanted to about him. Emerson believed that God was in fact “revealed through nature” (pbs.org). In the first section of his essay, he states that “the first in time and the first in importance of the influences upon the mind is that of nature” (Emerson). Nature was to be seen as a big key during this time period. Nature was connected to everything man. Meaning without nature a person could be lost. Which is where the phrase manifest destiny became in to play.
Manifest Destiny also came about during the 18th century and its ideas was that the “United States is destined by God” (Ushistory.org Editors). More than how transcendentalists saw God, manifest destiny made it look like anyone could do anything with the power of God and believing in him. The first person to mention this phrase was John Sullivan. Sullivan worked as an editor for two newspapers columns and had mentioned this was the expansion towards the “new frontier” was going to occur (Ushistory.org Editors).
Others who contributed to transcendentalism were Henry David Thoreau and Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville, being from France, has a piece called “American Democracy” in which he states five key things Americans go by from what he saw happening in the American society. Love of equality, absence of tradition, individualism (just like transcendentalism and manifest destiny), tyranny of the majority, and the importance of free association were the five characterized features.
Henry David Thoreau was another who followed into what Emerson had said, he had “admired” Emerson for his great work (Ushistory.org). He is also known as another original thinker alongside Emerson. Thoreau’s idea was focusing more on the nature part. He is also known as one of the original thinkers of transcendentalism. His book “Walden”, he discusses himself being more in the wild and living with it. He then goes on to question “whether it is of the devil or of God” making one wonder that they did think of the two during their time period (UShistory.org). Like many other movements, this one had other ideas made by ones who did not quite look at it the same way. As events occurred, the subject of transcendentalism had been seen as another thing to some.
One like Immanuel Kant, believed to have built the system, was to understand that “the mind was not a blank slate that is written upon by the empirical world…” (“Immanuel Kant”). He talked how this dealt with ethics and that everything was constructed by our environment and what happens due to our actions. Another who was not in fact a man to follow transcendentalism was Margaret Fuller. Fuller, who wrote “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” where she “sought to apply to women the transcendentalist idea that freedom meant a quest for personal development…” (Froner). John Muir was also inspired by the transcendentalists of the “pre-civil war era…” (Froner) like Thoreau. He had considered that “forests were God’s first temples” (Froner).
As many things’, transcendentalism led to artwork was another big thing during this time period. One in particular was the one involving the Hudson River school. One of the members, Asher B. Durand, made a painting called “Kindred Spirits”. The painting symbolized the group who followed transcendentalism. In the painting you can see two men on a cliff, nature surrounding them. The men were said to be speaking “the wilderness is yet a fitting place to speak of God” (“Nature Transformed”). Nature is where everything is calm, and one can find themselves. To them, it was their reality.
Transcendentalism has changed very much since then.
- Froner, Eric. “Give me Liberty! An American History.” Brief fifth Edition. W.W. Norton & Company, pp. 268.
- History.com Editors. “Manifest Destiny.” A&E Television Networks. April 5, 2010, November 15, 2019. Accessed December 3, 2019.
- “New England Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson And Kantian or Transcendental Idealism.” Emerson and Kantian Transcendental Idealism, www.age-of-the-sage.org/transcendentalism/emerson/idealism_kant.html. Accessed December 3, 2019.
- Ushistory.org. “Transcendentalism%2C An American Philosophy.” U.S. History Online Textbook. //www.ushistory.org/us/26f.asp 2019. Accessed December 4, 2019.
- “God In America.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/godinamerica/people/ralph-waldo-emerson.html. Accessed December 4, 2019.
- Crossman, Ashley. “Why Democracy in America Is Considered an Essential Book on the U.S.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 20 Apr. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/democracy-in-america-3026749. Accessed December 4, 2019.
- “Immanual Kant.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, www.iep.utm.edu/kantmeta/. Accessed December 5, 2019.
- The Roots of Preservation: Emerson, Thoreau, and the Hudson River School, Nature Transformed, TeacherServe®, National Humanities Center, nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nattrans/ntwilderness/essays/preserva.htm.
The Main Ideas of Transcendentalism and Its Influence
Transcendentalism was a tremendous social development in the nineteenth century; be that as it may, the thoughts of the development still keep on impacting our general public in the twenty-first century. These thoughts of Transcendentalism have kept on existing all through numerous years in light of the fact that the thoughts stay important to society. Truth be told, the issues that numerous transcendentalist writers experienced still happen today in new ways. These comparative issues incorporate similarity, the job of government in the public eye, and the significance of nature. By and large, individuals still feel that society needs to better itself to assist all people, which is at the core of Transcendentalism. However, as there always is people are against it. Anti-Transcendentalism was mainly focused on how rules were needed because humans were evil without them. A very good friend of Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne found it optimistic to accept a world where building a relationship with nature is a thing.
A big leader for this era would be Ralph Waldo Emerson, a man who encourages the world to explore their own experiences with nature and have that relationship with the universe instead of just relying on old habits. Emerson opened the door to many questions in hope of making people want to do the unexpected. Emerson argues that we need to learn to rely on ourselves, he believes we need to let go of the fetters of society and the opinions of others. Moving on to Henry David Thoreau brought civil disobedience to the picture. Another big name connected to Transcendentalism, Thoreau went more into depth on Emerson’s ideas. Civil disobedience taking part in this era to satisfy their true inner beliefs on society, he wanted to influence American culture by making a statement that standing up for what one believes is not wrong and one should speak out on what matters to them. For example, as Thoreau wrote Civil Disobedience we can see it was greatly influenced by people like Martin Luther King Jr. he protested against discrimination. Someone else who was influenced was Gandhi wanted equality for all which then promoted him to participate in a civil disobedience movement. All through most of Emerson’s and Thoreau’s crusades, the thought was dominated by the point of servitude. In spite of the enormous measure of men who were anxious about the possibility that that woman would begin wearing jeans, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed, which at long last gave girls the privilege to cast a ballot. During this time, ladies split away from the convention of not talking about legislative issues, which demonstrated the idea of independence in their social development. Today, women’s privileges are as yet an enormous idea through the Feminist Movement, which pushes that people are equivalent creatures. Because of the way that women’s liberation advocates for all genders to have equivalent rights, which originates from instinct, the development is legitimately identified with Transcendentalism.
Many like Hawthorn didn’t quite agree with Emerson or Thoreau. Instead, he believed everyone “was born with sin”, basically saying that to find God was to do good works. In his writing “The Minister’s Black Veil” ” No mortal eye will see it withdrawn”, this goes way over people’s minds instantly but it has a deeper meaning to it saying once the veil is removed then that’s when one dies and goes to heaven or hell. Here it is shown that his views are against Transcendentalism saying when one is good and alive, sin is always with you. Edgar Allan Poe was powerful in making American writing more philosophical and magical than it had been up to this time, particularly as far as the dim Romanticism of Germany as opposed to the occasionally sentimentalized sentimentalism of New England Transcendentalists. Poe likewise made periodical distributing increasingly significant in American artistic culture. American writing in the mid-nineteenth century was regularly debilitated by the simple openness of English books. Absence of copyright laws made crafted by the incomparable English scholars inexpensively accessible; consequently, American essayists couldn’t contend in this class. Periodical distributing, and the short story as the favored classification of this medium was America’s method for retaliating. While mocking transcendentalism beliefs in his writings he chose to write a more melancholic portrayal of beauty. Poe was a significant figure in this fight to make the United States a scholarly power in world culture.
Lastly, the question of the century, How has Transcendentalism influenced or paved the way for American Culture? Many of past generations have witnessed the results of events from the time the continent wasn’t nonetheless freelance to the time it became a sovereign country. Transcendentalism has changed American society by simply innovating individual freedom and help make a stand to fight for what you believe in. To this day Transcendentalism occurs in the most ordinary ways, for example, television channels persuade kids to go out and play because it is healthy for them. But in this case, an important thing Emerson said was to go and find a relationship with nature, a connection that not many get and it has a deeper sense than just promoting healthy life. These writers made an American ‘perspective’ in which the creative mind was superior to reason, innovativeness was superior to the hypothesis, and activity was superior to thought.
The Dependence on European Scholars in the American Scholar by Ralph Waldo Emerson
A scholar. What is a scholar? A scholar is a person who attends a school or studies under a teacher or someone who has done much study in a particular field of education. The American Scholar by Ralph Waldo Emerson was a speech given in 1837 to Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard who were a select group or a bunch of students with unusually high grade point averages. He was invited to give this speech because of his groundbreaking work in his essay titled “Nature” which is all about Transcendentalism which is or was a philosophical movement, developed in the late 1820’s to the 1830’s as a sort of protest to the general state of spirituality and intellectualism at that moment in time. The speech was about how he thought that American scholars were becoming too dependent on European scholars and that they need to start to make a role of their own or start to form their own beliefs about the natural world.
Who was Emerson?
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American poet, philosopher, and lecturer who attended Harvard University. He was born on May 25, 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. At fourteen years old, he attended Harvard University and war appointed freshman messenger for the president of Harvard University. Later in life, Ralph Waldo Emerson was inducted into the Harvard Divinity School which was one of Harvard’s constituent schools that trained and educated its attendees in the academic study of religions or religious ministry/ other public service vocations. Throughout his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a strong believer in individualism. Individualism is the belief that each and every person is unique in their own way and self-reliant for their actions and for their success now and in the future.
Gaining Our Own Beliefs
His speech that he gave “The American Scholar” was to talk about European influence on American scholars and he thought that this should not be the case. He would rather live amongst one’s own inspiration or one’s own thoughts rather than one of a European scholar’s because once again, he thinks we are becoming too dependent on the Europeans. He thought we should originate with our own beliefs and gave a “Philosophical Framework” for how they can gain their own beliefs that are not heavily influenced by the Europeans.
Nature, Action, and Books
His three kinds of main views or parts of Amerian scholarships he talks about are Nature, action, and books. He talks about nature in the sense of people and their interactions with our natural world and how we should not combine different things and put them into one thing because they could become very disembodied and disattached. He also means natural in a sense of the human mind and that we shouldn’t become detached from things and how we should think of each thing as its own thing. He talks about books in the sense of us people and our relationship with them and warns about a very revertial and backwards approach to discussing and really just literature from a general standpoint and that a scholar should have a very strong and meaningful understanding of the past in literature ad just about everything overall. Finally he discusses action. What he means by action is, to simply put it, our lives and how we live them or how we act/our actions in life. He gives this speech with individualism in mind because as I said prior, he is or was an individualist.
Emerson and Individual Growth (‘self-reliance’ and ‘The American Scholar)
‘Self-Reliance’ and Trusting Our Own Thoughts
“Self-Reliance” reflects on, often dismissed, individual insights. Ralph Waldo Emerson believes it is important that we recognize and encourage individuals to trust in their own thoughts more than those from other people (such as famous writers). He believes someone mature and trusting in their original thoughts, rather than those conforming to society, are heading towards greatness. Throughout the essay he argues that trusting oneself before others is the most important realization one can have and the most beneficial for oneself. Toning oneself down for others only encourages and brings about mediocrity and discourages authenticness. However, self-reliance has the ability to “revolutionize” society if we so allow.
He acknowledges that, while they may not be positive characteristics for someone to possess, or the best example of having self-reliance; self-reliance is often stronger in males as they are often more independent and prone to being judgemental with a lack of respect. While that may not be the most flattering example it does ring true. He continues on to note that we can also see a good example of self-reliance in children, since the world has yet to shape them and their mindsets. Children and babies freely think, believe and feel and do not focus on outside sources to tell them how they should react to something. As a result, this is the best example we can learn from in regards to self-reliance and wanting to fully trust our gut and our own thoughts.
‘The American Scholar’ and The Importance of Nature and Books
Meanwhile, “The American Scholar” breaks down and explores what Emerson believes influences a scholar. He discusses the effect that nature, history and actions have on the “thinking man” and explores their responsibilities. He believes that we should allow nature to teach us. We should acknowledge the similarities between it and our minds, like how each possess and strives for order. This is seen in our minds by the way they sort through the constant information we are learning and the importance it has to past knowledge we have stored. Emerson believes that nature and the human mind mirror one another and fall parallel.
Emerson also expresses the influence and importance books/history have on us. He says that while they “contain the learning of the past” they can also “pose a great danger.” Books are, inevitably, somewhat biased and based on society’s standards at the time of writing. They can also keep scholars from forming their own thoughts and opinions due to something, like respect, for the writers of the past. However, like stated prior, books do hold an importance outside of keeping society educated. It is important to inspire and be inspired by others, though one should not allow their work to be influenced by past writers. This is what has the capability of creating new, possibly important, works. Overall, educating yourself and reading past works/learning history is beneficial as long as you do not let it influence the way you believe and act.
Emerson concludes the essay by addressessing the scholar’s societal obligations. He believes that developing a strong self-trust is the most important task and that working through hardships and self-sacrificing leads to great knowledge. Along with the same ideas that one must be self-reliant, original and brave in their thoughts. This conclusion coincides with what is said through the whole of “Self-reliance.”
As a result, these essays work together to inform Emerson’s audience and encourage individual growth by bringing clarity to the challenges that are presented to us in regards to knowledge, personalities and distinction in our specific fields of work and daily life. He is constant in his push for individuality and explaining the importance it has on oneself and the society around them. Pushing for this diversity and ever-growing knowledge encourages the audience to want to be self-reliant. It lets the audience know that their own thoughts have value and can have an impact on the world around them. It lets them know that they are capable of inspiring others and that as long as they are self-aware and can acknowledge and critique themselves, they can and will do great things.
Emerson’s stance strives for and leads to a diverse world with vast knowledge and the desire for change. He lets his audience know that it is okay to go a different path than what is expected and that, that is often times better for us and the world around us. He does not judge what one does, but rather lets them know that they have other options they might not have seen or considered prior. Emerson encourages individual growth by explaining what it means to him and the benefits it gives us and our world.
Always Be Yourself and Do not Conform to Society
We live in a world where people are afraid to be themselves and this is because of our society. The society has a major impact on us as humans. If you aren’t a size zero or you don’t look like a model, you don’t fit in. If you’re a size ten or above, you are considered fat. People should never have to be afraid to be themselves or feel the need to change themselves due to our society. Individuality is what designs a person, it’s rare, unique and beautiful and should never be changed.
Conforming to Society
Our generation today looks up to people on social media, models, actors, and famous singers. Because of this, people change the way they look or act to fit a certain requirement that society has embedded in the brains of our generation. This could be the way they dress or their sexuality. Conforming to society isn’t just about your personality or looks, it could be watching television shows or buying the latest iPhone instead of buying an android because iPhones are more popular. Most people end up attempting to change themselves to fit societies standards so they can fit in with what the media wants them to act like or look like, or even to look ‘cool,’ however, Ralph Waldo Emerson has a different opinion.
The Greatest Accomplishment
His quote, ‘To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment’ really stands out to me because he wants you to be yourself and by being yourself, you have accomplished the greatest thing in life. I believe this is true because you should always be yourself no matter what someone else thinks of you. You should never have to conform yourself to anyone’s standards but your own. Last year, I met someone who is very close to me and later found out he is transgender. He told me, ‘Growing up I could never be myself. I’d always have to be someone I’m not, but when I met you I finally decided not to let that happen anymore and I’ve never felt freer.’ Freeing yourself from how others view you and the limits people put on you and finally being yourself, that is the greatest accomplishment.
Following Emerson’s quote, an example of this in literature would be Edgar Allan Poe. His writing style doesn’t obey the rules of society. His style of dark romanticism is abundantly dark, and his pieces relate to his life. Poe’s piece ‘Alone’ is about his childhood and how he felt alone and completely isolated as a child, during the entire story it’s immensely dark, however, he told the true story and the real emotions he felt and didn’t change anything. He kept the story the way it went and the way he wanted it to go.
In conclusion, Emerson’s quote is powerful and precise. You should always continue to be yourself throughout life with everything you do. By doing that, you have achieved the greatest thing in life. I once saw this television show and one of the characters said, ‘she wears her individuality like a shield,’ as you should. Individuality is unique and beautiful and you should never change that for anyone.