Transcendentalism Essay

1413 words - 6 pages

Emerson and Thoreau and their Perspectives of Transcendentalism

Imagine a world where each individual thought for himself, not allowing other

outside influences to mold his ideas. We currently live in a society in which a single clip

on television, quote from a newspaper, or opinion from a peer can consequently

determine how one thinks or the outlook they have on a topic.

In "Self-Reliance," Emerson states, "A man should learn to detect and watch that

gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than luster of the

firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, just because

it is his." In this quote Emerson is elaborating on the idea that we must all exude

intellectual independence and nonconformity. Why do we rely on others to determine the

way we think, act, dress and speak? Thoreau and Emerson both tried to incorporate this

idea into their writings. When an individual allows others to influence his own ideas he

is rendered weak-minded and ignorant. An individual must think for themselves in order

to achieve a true sense of self.

Thoreau often emphasizes the necessity to follow one's destiny. If one follows

his dream, he will be able to live a life full of happiness and joy. He will experience

more freedom and become more spiritually fulfilled in his new way of life. Moreover, he

will only achieve this once he has given up parts of his past customs. By living more

simply, he will be fully satisfied with his new habits that do not focus on the pecuniary

aspects of life. If he has already spent the previous part of his life satisfying his material

wants, he has not completely wasted his life. However, he needs to fill his soul with

something more substantial, such as passion for his dream (Thoreau). Thoreau correctly

emphasizes that only true happiness can be achieved through following one's heart.

Mansions and cars can never make a person truly happy, even if he believes it himself.

People are often preoccupied with the view of the society in which they live. One must

"listen to the faintest but constant suggestions of his genius" to identify his true passions

(Thoreau). If one is fortunate enough to experience this tremendous joy, he should pursue

it, even if it means taking a risk. In the modern world, people may find it more difficult

to follow Thoreau's claims. Society considers certain careers and lifestyles to be much

worthier and successful paths. If one has the courage to venture outside of this realm of

acceptance, he may achieve happiness on a personal level, but not within society. In

today's world, many people value materialistic items to an unhealthy extent. They focus

their lives on doing well in school, obtaining a decent job, earning money, and buying

their way to happiness, rather than identifying and pursuing their passions. ...

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