Emerson and Thoreau and Their Perspectives of Transcendentalism

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Happiness, Thought Pages: 4 (1320 words) Published: December 17, 2008
Imagine a world where each individual thought for himself, not allowing other outside influences to mold his ideas. We currently live in a society in which a single clip on television, quote from a newspaper, or opinion from a peer can consequently determine how one thinks or the outlook they have on a topic. In "Self-Reliance," Emerson states, "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, just because it is his." In this quote Emerson is elaborating on the idea that we must all exude intellectual independence and nonconformity. Why do we rely on others to determine the way we think, act, dress and speak? Thoreau and Emerson both tried to incorporate this idea into their writings. When an individual allows others to influence his own ideas he is rendered weak-minded and ignorant. An individual must think for themselves in order to achieve a true sense of self Thoreau often emphasizes the necessity to follow one's destiny. If one follows his dream, he will be able to live a life full of happiness and joy. He will experience more freedom and become more spiritually fulfilled in his new way of life. Moreover, he will only achieve this once he has given up parts of his past customs. By living more simply, he will be fully satisfied with his new habits that do not focus on the pecuniary aspects of life. If he has already spent the previous part of his life satisfying his material wants, he has not completely wasted his life. However, he needs to fill his soul with something more substantial, such as passion for his dream (Thoreau). Thoreau correctly emphasizes that only true happiness can be achieved through following one's heart. Mansions and cars can never make a person truly happy, even if he believes it himself.

People are often preoccupied with the view of the society in which they live. One must "listen to...
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