Abounding with short aphorisms, the essay begins with an admonition to believe in the true self, which is considered in essence identical with the Universal Spirit: Senseless philanthropy, which encourages dependence on outside help, is thus also thought to be detrimental. Acting in accordance with true feeling, he believes, will automatically bring about a sound life. Viewed in light of self, history is thus the biography of a few unusually powerful figures.
As in almost all of his work, he promotes individual experience over the knowledge gained from books: This absence of conviction results not in different ideas, as this person expects, but in the acceptance of the same ideas — now secondhand thoughts — that this person initially intuited.
The lesson Emerson would have us learn? A person with self-esteem, on the other hand, exhibits originality and is childlike — unspoiled by selfish needs — yet mature.
It is to this adventure of self-trust that Emerson invites us: We are to be guides and adventurers, destined to participate in an act of creation modeled on the classical myth of bringing order out of chaos.
Although we might question his characterizing the self-esteemed individual as childlike, Emerson maintains that children provide models of self-reliant behavior because they are too young to be cynical, hesitant, or hypocritical. He draws an analogy between boys and the idealized individual: Both are masters of self-reliance because they apply their own standards to all they see, and because their loyalties cannot be coerced.
This rebellious individualism contrasts with the attitude of cautious adults, who, because they are overly concerned with reputation, approval, and the opinion of others, are always hesitant or unsure; consequently, adults have great difficulty acting spontaneously or genuinely.
The process of so-called "maturing" becomes a process of conforming that Emerson challenges. In the paragraph that begins with the characteristic aphorism "Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist," he asserts a radical, even extreme, position on the matter.
For example, he claims that an abolitionist should worry more about his or her own family and community at home than about "black folk a thousand miles off," and he chides people who give money to the poor. He refuses to support morality through donations to organizations rather than directly to individuals.
The concrete act of charity, in other words, is real and superior to abstract or theoretical morality. It makes no difference to him whether his actions are praised or ignored. The important thing is to act independently: There is a difference between enjoying solitude and being a social hermit.
Those around you never get to know your real personality. Even worse, the time spent maintaining allegiances to "communities of opinion" saps the energy needed in the vital act of creation — the most important activity in our lives — and distracts us from making any unique contribution to society. Conformity corrupts with a falseness that pervades our lives and our every action: Shifting the discussion to how the ideal individual is treated, Emerson notes two enemies of the independent thinker:Whenever I need a reminder about how to do this, I turn to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on self reliance.
“Self-Reliance,” considered Emerson’s most influential piece, works its magic much like an inspiring song that can get you through the last stretch of . Self-Reliance: Self-Reliance, essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, published in the first volume of his collected Essays ().
Developed from his journals and from a series of lectures he gave in the winter of –37, it exhorts the reader to consistently obey “the aboriginal self,” or inner law, regardless of.
“Self-Reliance,” considered Emerson’s most influential piece, works its magic much like an inspiring song that can get you through the last stretch of a grueling run. His central point is. Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American Transcendentalist poet, philosopher and essayist during the 19th century.
One of his best-known essays is "Self-Reliance.” Ralph Waldo Emerson Born: May 25, In his publication called Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson includes an essay simply entitled Self-Reliance in which he states "Trust thyself Great men have always done so and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age ".
Published first in in Essays and then in the revised edition of Essays, "Self-Reliance" took shape over a long period of time. Throughout his life, Emerson kept detailed journals of his thoughts and actions, and he returned to them as a source for many of his essays.