Transcendentalism is a very formal word that describes a very simple idea. People, men and women equally, have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that "transcends" or goes beyond what they can see, hear, taste, touch or feel. Being an individual is important because you stick up for yourself. If you follow what others do you won’t have the freedom or spiritual mind. For example, transcendentalists, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, led the celebration of the American experiment as one of individualism and self-reliance. They took progressive stands on women's rights, abolition, reform, education, criticized government, organized religion, laws, social institutions, and creeping industrialization.
First, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be great is to be misunderstood” (392). Emerson is commenting on how many great men followed their own intuition in spite of criticism or misunderstanding from society. He says, "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." (392). To that he adds "To be great is to be misunderstood." (392). This means that if one is not always consistent, one may be misunderstood. But, since many great men have not been understood by society, then you are you having great company when people don't understand you. What is important, according to Emerson, is that one not violates his or her own nature. You must be true to yourself, even if it means saying one thing one day and saying something else the next day. That way we show that we trust ourselves and not others to dictate our beliefs.
Second, Henry David Thoreau, who tried to put transcendentalism into practice. A great admirer of Emerson, Thoreau nevertheless was his own man, described variously as strange, gentle, fanatic, selfish, a dreamer, a stubborn individualist. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quick sands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify." (Walden, by Henry David Thoreau). When he wrote about the simplicity and unity of all things in nature, his faith in humanity, and his sturdy individualism, Thoreau reminded everyone that life is wasted pursuing wealth and following social customs. Nature can show that "all good things are wild and free."
Last, it is important to be an individual in your own right when every individual in society belongs to some group and essentially conform because you have to be unique in order to survive in this “ugly” society. You’re high, you’re low. You’re great, you’re weak. You’re everything, but yet nothing. Your choices in life are all yours and eventually shape who you are supposed to be in your life. We are all different. We differ in many ways, some of them visual (age, gender) some of them non-visual (personality, abilities). These differences mean that we often have different values and attitudes on certain issues and individuals will perceive situations in different ways.
In conclusion, being an individual will give the open mind and a beautiful mindset on things you never thought were beautiful before. The transcendentalists created an American "state of mind" in which imagination was better than reason, creativity was better than theory, and action was better than contemplation. And they had faith that all would be well because humans could transcend limits and reach astonishing heights.