9 December 2014
When first exposed to the concept of Transcendentalism in English class, the idea
seemed farfetched and rather abstract. Upon further reading and research, people discover that the concepts, although they originally seemed complex, where works of true brilliance. Society has made it hard for individuals to exist when things like popular culture seemingly brainwash youth into doing whatever is considered "cool."
Transcendentalism is a powerful concept which should be acknowledged by this generation, for the points encompassed in Transcendentalism are more vital today than ever. Through the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, transcendentalism is explained as the philosophy of striving to live a life of independence, simplicity, and oneness with nature.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was the foremost pioneer of Transcendentalism. As many of the Transcendentalists, in SelfReliance he wrote about what it was to be an individual.
Transcendentalism is exactly the opposite of "go with the flow," which is used regularly in our modern world. This is exactly what Emerson and other Transcendentalists sought to exterminate: the idea that everyone should be like everyone else. "What I must do is all
that concerns me, not what the people think" (Emerson 30). Emerson believes that you are in control of your own thoughts and actions. No one should be living in the world’s opinions like Emerson says here, "It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude..." (Emerson 35). This simply means that it is easy to live like everyone else and it is easy to live by your own.
Though a man who lives among the opinions of others and is still his own self, is the real, true, great man.
Thoreau, the protege of Emerson, went through tough experiences to understand
Transcendentalism and to be in harmony with nature. In Walden, Thoreau spends two years living in a cottage, which he made, next to a pond in the woods. He experienced nature and the beauty of it. While living in the woods, he was seeking the heart of life and to find the truth of nature. In addition, finding out that simplicity supplied the clarity of his response to the beauty he worshipped in nature and with nature. In this experience,
Thoreau learns simplicity and that means learning to live without complication. To accomplish this, he suggests, “..reduce other things in proportion…” (Thoreau 63). In other words, he suggests getting rid of details so that your accounts can be “..[kept] on your thumbnail” (Thoreau 56). Thoreau says “An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest”
(Thoreau 51). By operating in such a manner, a man remains in control of his own life, having only the bare necessities of items. Thoreau’s biggest learning experience, was learning that people over buy everything. While living in the woods, Thoreau only had
the little things he needed to survive and nothing more. He learned that having ten pair of shoes was unnecessary, when all people need are one pair. Moreover, as a direct result of simplicity in Thoreau’s experience, he learned what life has to teach. As a result, he breeds oneness with nature and sees the beauty of his own