Self-Reliance

1. The essay that I elected to read and analyze was "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
2. The Transcendental Movement held a strong opinion that one should have complete faith in oneself. Emerson, being an avid transcendentalist, believed in this philosophy. He supported this concept that we should rely on our own intuition and beliefs. "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." Emerson, along with the Transcendental Movement, believed in the vitality of self-reliance. One must have confidence and belief in oneself. "?the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it." Once one has reliance upon oneself, he can generate his own set of ideals and morals, not just the ideals bestowed upon him by society. In obeying these principles of life, he has created a constitution of his own. This constitution is the guiding light of his life; it leads the way to truth and ultimate liberation and provides the right path to follow.
This idea brings about the transcendental concept of the belief in the worth of the individual. The individual, in transcendental philosophy, has the power to accomplish anything and everything. Social organization and friendship offer a small satisfaction of companionship and structure in life, but one will ultimately succeed based upon his own skills and conviction. In doing so, he will lose interest in the society and concentrate on more individual dependency as he strives to gain ultimate truth in life. "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think." Once one considers less the social ramifications of his actions and considers more the personal consequences, he will become more apt to discover what he is looking for; in the transcendentalists? case, it was the meaning of life.
3. a). "To be great is to be misunderstood."
This statement was used by Emerson to explain the lagging growth of the conception of ideas and thought of his generation. Original and novel ideas were and still are scorned by those who believe that the best method for learning is repetition and memorization. When one comes up with a groundbreaking idea, it is generally disregarded because so-called "experts" do not agree with it. This is because society has been taught one thing, and they are scared to believe anything opposite of that. Therefore, anyone who dares to be different is shunned because he is misunderstood. These people, more often than not, turn out to be correct, and later generations benefit from their genius. The "outcast" has become great, and his name will live forever, or until somebody new comes along to defy his teachings.
I was drawn to this statement because it is so true. It has been proven time and time again that those who elect to be different are banished from their communities. After their death, unfortunately, they are appreciated for their greatness, and they are newly regarded as heroes. Emerson himself, along with the Transcendental Movement, were not fully appreciated until years after their deaths. The true truthfulness behind this statement reflects a major flaw of society.
b). "The effect of society was not to strengthen the individual, but to breed conformity and fear."
This statement reflects Emerson?s conflict with society. In his eyes, society was created in order to enforce rules that were generally accepted as correct. In the event that someone disagreed with these rules, he would be punished and reprimanded for his "sin." Society cannot exist if this is not true; however, Emerson saw this as a direct violation of the rights of the individual. The individual cannot succeed in society; the individual is different, and society scorns that which is different. Society is a breeding ground for conformity and uniformity. Therefore, instead of society assisting in raising thinkers, leaders, and philosophers, it creates followers. These followers become slaves to the society; they are under control of laws, their boss, etc. They have a fear of disobeying that which is accepted as correct because society has defined correctness; to go against society is to sin.
I was drawn to this statement because it shocked me. I did not believe it to be true upon reading it for the first time. However, after much analyzing, I was able to see the blatant factuality it possessed. I found the comment to be true, and it scares me. The reality of the situation is that we are not taught to be different; we are taught