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Self-Reliance and transcendentalism Essay

Many people in our world are often trying to be self-reliant; trying to make it on their own and be original in thought and true to themselves. Many of those people end up conforming and doing what has been done in the past. They end up walking down the worn out path that so many have walked before. However, a famous writer named Ralph Waldo Emerson believed that you need to venture off the main path and explore new ideas if you truly want to be great.

Emerson was one of the most famous examples of a transcendentalist. Transcendentalists were basically Idealists, but in a more practical sense. They believed that all people should strive to reach their goals and work hard till they reach human perfectibility. During his time period there was a great amount of positive growth in America and national identity causing many reforms in social, political, literary, and religious aspects of America. Transcendentalists believed that everything was a reflection of the Divine Soul. When you begin to think about it many people in modern day life have many transcendentalists like qualities; many people try to work to be perfect and don’t stop till they are there.

Emerson brought forth many bold and new ideas in his essay Self-Reliance. One of the main thought of his essay was that if a person wants to be great, they must be come up with completely original ideas and stick with them as shown when he writes “Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.” He said that there was nobody to teach the great writers of his time period, thus if you want to be remembered for your greatness you must start your completely new way of thought. He writes his famous line, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored be little salesmen and philosophers and diviners. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.” This is saying that consistency can be a problem. If you strive to be consistent in all things, you live according to a pattern, you are afraid that people might look down on you for trying something new. Emerson’s ideas in his essay were basically those of transcendentalism.

As a typical modern day teen, I find it quiet interesting to look back at how much more self-reliant my peers around me and I have become over all the years. I used to rely on my mother making my lunch and checking my homework, but now it’s all up to me. Many people that are near my age try to start their own ways; some try starting a band, shirt company, website or something else completely original. On the other hand, some teens have seemingly become less self-reliant. Many end up conforming, trying to fit in, wearing what everyone else wears and doing what everyone else says is cool. They will do what ever it takes to fit in with the crowd. Personally, I believe that no one can be one hundred percent self-reliant, or at lease it isn’t for the best, there must be a balance. You must come up with your own thoughts and believe in yourself, but you can’t survive by yourself. I think to become self-reliant you must get help from others first and learn and be taught how to create something new, but not what.

There are many examples of transcendentalism and Emerson’s Self Reliance in today’s modern day society. There are examples everywhere you look; in the media, songs, T.V. shows, and many other places. One strong example of transcendental thought is in the song Prisoner of Society by The Living End. The song lines are, “We don’t need no one to tell us what to do. Yes were on our own and there’s nothing you can do” saying that they are out by themselves and they will not be influenced by what others say, they are making up their original thought. Another example of a transcendental like person is Bill Gates. He took a brand new idea that was never thought of before and become one of the richest most successful men in history. We use Microsoft products day by day all because of him sticking with original thought.

Emerson brought up many points in Self-Reliance that are still extremely valid in today’s society, and there are many examples of people who demonstrate these transcendental traits. Many of us struggle to try to reach self-reliance, and others don’t much care for it and don’t mind staying on the mainstream path. Emerson was a man that believed in original thought and that message was truly brought forth in his essay; we must try to venture of off the main trail and start our own.


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