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Transcendentalism beliefs quickly came into trend, but as fast as it became popular transcendentalism faded out of American culture. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings were the basis of the transcendental beliefs in the United States. He traveled around Europe and heard Samuel Taylor Coleridge speak about his own beliefs; Emerson was enthralled and soon returned to the United States to spread the information that believers embraced. He wrote many essays on transcendentalism, which is the belief of being individual and not conforming to objects of splendor.
Cat Stevens was born well after Emerson had died; yet they believe in similar ideas. Emerson’s essay, “Self-Reliance” and Stevens’s song “100 I Dream” share some of the same ideas of transcendentalism. They both contain the theory that evil is the absence of good, individualistic beliefs and living in the present as key issues.
“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” Ralph Waldo Emerson contends that if a person is evil by nature, then evil is good and good is evil.
He also writes, “They do not seem to me such; but if I am the Devil’s child, I will live then from the Devil.” Basically the Devil, when he thinks of himself, does not infer that he is evil. He sees himself as doing something correct and good. “1001 Dream,” by Stevens, displays the idea that evil is always around. He wrote, “The evil that’s been done still is carrying on.” In some people’s minds, their actions appear good to them while others would see those same actions as evil.
Also in Stevens’s song the line, “Our leaders’ bones still beat on our homes,” relates to Emerson’s writing about, “society is a wave,” and shows that people are under the control of an evil society and they need to be lifted to safety.
Stevens’ song also has the transcendental trait of individualism. The lines, “Rise up and be free, voice whispered to me,” and “Rise and be free and die happily,” are examples of Stevens trying to tell people to stop being pushed around by people and rise up and roam. In Emerson’s essay, “SelfReliance,” he writes about the idea that a citizen of a society should remove himself to be an individual. In the line, “Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not,” one can understand Emerson’s ideas quite clearly. He is writing about how a society does not last forever and if a person clings to a society he will collapse along with it. Emerson believes that people would be all right by themselves without a society’s shelter. Individualism is a strong decision to make. Once somebody has made this choice, he should not look back and regret his decision.
Looking back into the past is no aid to someone’s present life. Emerson believes this and so does Cat Stevens. Both “Self-Reliance” and “100 I Dream” have strong ideas about remaining in the present. The past has already passed and nothing can change that. In “Self-Reliance,” the concept of living in the present is present throughout his essay. “But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present.” Cat Stevens’ song explains how living in the past hurts. A person who is living in the past needs to “Rise up and be free.” This means a person who lives in the past should rise above the barrier and look at the present. The line “You know wherever you go, the world will follow,” also has “live in the present” traits. Stevens is trying express his feelings that it is all right to do whatever a person pleases, and the world will gradually change.
Although the world is always changing and a person does not need to conform to each different trend. Emerson and Stevens believe the easier and more beneficial lifestyle is to rise up above the common people and be unique. They also believe in the idea that evil is the absence of good. Stevens wrote these ideas into his song and was very successful at making his ideas heard. Emerson and Stevens agreed on the idea of living in the present and leaving the past alone. There are an infinite number of ways to affect the present, but none to change the past. Millions of people, even today, dwell on events that have either saddened or uplifted their spirits. People need to stop and move on into the life they live now instead of the life they have lived in the past.
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