I believe that, essentially, life consists of a series of choices. A grouping of these choices in one direction or another makes us who we are, and ultimately we have control over our lives. What makes one person different from another is his own set of choices. When going through life’s motions, we develop certain worldviews and ideas and values to live by. We develop an opinion of what makes a person “great. ” In the well-known essay “Self-Reliance”, Ralph Waldo Emerson provides a beautiful way of approaching these choices, and he reveals a very inspiring set of values centralized around going through life answering only to yourself.Order now
I love the way Emerson evaluates the society we live in, and how he radically encourages being misunderstood and nonconformist. Emerson, like myself, exhibits values of saying exactly what you think and living only by what you believe to be the best. If I can successfully shape my life around ideas of self-reliance I can be exactly who I want to be. I look around me and don’t want to conform to society’s standards, I recognize that there is an easy way out, but try my best to remain true to myself by following my heart with pure conviction.
Because of my desire to remain true to myself, I closely identify with Emerson in “Self-Reliance”: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, – that is genius. ” Emerson’s views of society really speak to me as well. In order for me to be self-reliant, I must recognize that society wants every one of its members to have a cookie-cutter image and personality which I am constantly trying to break free of.
I share this view of society with Emerson: “Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue of request is conformity. Self-Reliance is its aversion. ” In everything that I do I decide to go the road less traveled, I make the choice to see something in a different way than everyone else. I choose not to wear the same clothes as most people do, I choose to always say what is on my mind and I try my hardest to not let what people may think of me interfere with what I say I and do.
I consider myself a non-conformist for these reasons. Even when it comes to culture: I would much prefer the independent, locally-owned video shop where I can find obscure movies to the gigantic Blockbuster. I don’t choose to listen to Popular music or buy the CD’s of artists being shoved down our throats by MTV. I choose to find my own flavor, to disregard the overwhelming majority to the best of my ability.
My feelings go along with Emerson’s again in “Self-Reliance”: “A man is to carry himself in the presence of all opposition, as if every thing were titular and ephemeral but he. Continuing on the subject of conformity Emerson provides the famous line: “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. ” Stressing again the view of answering only to yourself when making choices in life Emerson states: “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. ” If I am to constantly do the opposite of the norm within this society, then I am naturally misunderstood in return.
To fit into society’s cookie-cutter image, you must keep up a certain controlled consistency. I therefore, again, enjoy and can identify with Emerson’s views about being misunderstood and about that very consistency of our society. This idea leads us again to a well-known sector in “Self-Reliance”: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divinesâ€¦ With consistencyhe may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.
Emerson also notes that the greatest “pure and wise” people of all history were misunderstood: “Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. ” I am very glad to have read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” because it helps me define who I am and what I want to get out of life.
It puts into words what I have felt day to day my entire life, and even more refreshingly lets me know that it is what makes great humans great. It lets me know that it is important to realize that all choices in life come down to what I, myself, believe in. Emerson tells me it is all right to go against what may be expected of me because it is my life and if I am to live it to the fullest, it is a wonderful thing to be able to do what I feel I must do, and that is what will ensure happiness for me.