Emerson

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In Emerson's Self-Reliance we see the crowning work of the transcendentalist movement. In this piece Emerson explains his belief in the innate divinity of man and defines our "Self-Reliance" as the broad identity in which we personally participate. Emerson challenges his readers to not conform to traditional practices in a variety of realms. However, he punctuates just four aspects of these challenges to tradition and they are: religion, education, art, and society. I found these passages to be the best representatives of Emerson's ideology due to their poignancy and numbered paragraphs. He talks of these challenges to man as revolutions due to a greater self-reliance. The profoundness of thought in this piece is surprising to me given the historical period Emerson was bathed in. His thoughts on genius are the means of conveyance for his ideal about nonconformity and originality. Also, the personal and emotional connection with which Emerson uses to convey original thoughts and ideas is apparent in his evaluation of great minds of the past. The first passage regards the challenge to revolutionize religion; and more importantly, to discount the practice of prayer and creeds. He says, "Prayer that craves a particular commodity, anything less than all good, is vicious" (Robinson 102). He is basically announcing his contempt for the pious nature man has come to have and his belief that we should not pray for things we can achieve ourselves. He goes on to say, "But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not unity in nature and consciousness" (Robinson 102). He is equating prayer with begging to God and believes it is not needed when you become one with God and therefore can see prayer in all productive actions. Prayer for Emerson creates a distinction between himself and God and does not allow for the self to become one with nature and consciousness. He also critiques man's practice of creeds and he believes the practice of one negates all others and vice versa. He says creeds are "a disease of the intellect" (Robinson 103). Whereas prayer is a disease of the will, creeds perform a habitual complacency in the life of man which allows only for the teachings of one particular idea. This is intellectual death for Emerson. To not only have to beli... ... middle of paper ... ...hat is known is not valuable and not beneficial, and what is unknown is original, daring, valuable and great. The greatness resides inside of us and we must excavate it through constant reevaluation of our principles and virtues, without regarding foreign influences. In conclusion, I believe Emerson’s applicable challenges can be identified as his leading arguments when concerned with individual and personal revolution. His views on religion, education, art, and society are explicated through his gifted intuitional understanding and reason. By reasoning to the reader through vivid examples which are apparent and self-evident, he creates the proof for his understanding of reason’s uses to question what we are perceived to know. The personal connection to Emerson is clear in his engaging emotional remark in which we can simply recognize as his affection for the original, misunderstood, and individual contributions great minds of the past have made. RALPH WALDO EMERSON Self-Reliance WORKS CITED Robinson, David M. The Spiritual Emerson, Essential Writings. Ed. David M. Robinson. Boston: Beacon Press, 2003.

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