Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Self Reliance" had a lot to do with focusing on one and not worrying about what others think. It was a pep talk for each person to trust what they believe or think and not be sorry for what they say. Emerson said that in order to be great or do extraordinary things there was risks that came along with it like the general population not agreeing with what one's ideas are. I noticed that Emerson used many bible references like that of Joseph, Moses, Jesus, and others. He recognized that even though they were great figures, in their time most people looked down on them. He looked with disdain on society when he wrote that it is in "conspiracy of manhood" because it does not allow men to be individuals.
This writing was written at a time when people were exploring new thoughts and ideas. They wanted a change in their lives and were willing to take into account things that were not popular. Emerson gave just that; furthermore, he went on to frown upon many practices people have even today like charity work. I guess what he is trying to say is that when they are donating for the cause it is only because they feel indebted to being alive or they have to prove themselves. Instead of giving from the heart, "their virtues become penances." 
It was interesting that Emerson didn't like the way our memory stopped us from doing things that did not agree with what we had done in the past. He encouraged expressing the way you think without caring what others thought or if it contradicted in any way what they may have done in the past. The way Emerson wrote reminded me a lot of Benjamin Franklin because even though others did help him out, he did not try to rely on them. When his ideas conflicted with the vast majority-like education-he didn't care and went on to benefit many. The only thing I have a problem with is that it makes man look flawless, perfect. In the essay there was no place stating the possibility of human betterment just a nonconformist view on what was going on, which only means to go against the current.
"Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it"- Why would Emerson write about babies if they are at the least self-reliant peoples?
Does Emerson think we are imperfect beings?


  1. Your connection between Benjamin Franklin and Emerson is something that I had not thought of. I am confused with your statement that conflicting ideas make men look flawless. In the selection it states that "To be great is to be misunderstood". I think that to be misunderstood makes a person feel awkward and uncomfortable. I agree that Emerson should have provided concrete examples to improve self reliance he just states that it needs to be done, do you think that this part of the Transcendentalism movement, to find inner self-reliance?

  2. I think finding an inner self-reliance is part of the transcendentalist movement. This in turn would make the person not really care for what others think of him so i don't really think it follows that being misunderstood leads to feeling awkward if you have that self-reliance. But what I noticed while reading was that man could do no wrong...