Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Blake Owens Third Installment "Self-Reliance"

The most famous work of Ralph Waldo Emerson is his essay "Self-Reliance" which is a culmination of his transcendentalist works. In it he argues that genius is to believe in oneself. In some way, shape or form, Emerson argued, everyone's mind exists in a state of conformism with society. Because of this, he stated that, “No government or church can explain a man’s heart to him, and so each individual must resist institutional authority.” Not only does he argue that not conforming to societal values is a way to reach true enlightenment, he actually argues that conforming thusly is actually harmful to the individual, because it causes one to sacrifice one's own values. Another large part of the essay is the importance of self worth. Emerson believed that we should not look to great figures in the past with too much awe because they were men just like the men of today. However, they can be good examples of men who learned to trust themselves. This belief came from Emerson believing that quoting a great person from the past keeps you from voicing your own opinion. 
 Emerson's transcendentalism, while written in the 1800's, is still very relevant today. In a world where people define themselves define themselves by political party, race, and religion, and governments across the world are doing more and more to control what people are allowed to see and think, it becomes more important than ever for us to think for ourselves. Countries like 
Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan have seen more censorship, arrests, and violence in the past few years than ever before. With the advent of the internet, it is all to easy to connect with people who completely agree with you. As amazing as that is, it also has its share of dangers, as people grow complacent and accept things without truly thinking about them or never have their own thoughts at all. I hope that Emerson can inspire us all to be a little more self-reliant.
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1 comment:

  1. I love this Emerson line:

    “Meek young men grow up in libraries believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote those books.”

    So, questioning authority and thinking for yourself is not something you should ever do on Emerson's authority (or anyone else's), do it on your own.

    Also (note with irony), "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."