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. ...