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A response to Emerson’s “Self Reliance”

Emerson’s Essay ‘Self-Reliance’ talks about a ‘code’ for living that defies all previous ‘codes’ and encourages a ‘full society’ outlook beyond logic to many minds. He encourages the reader to free himself of conformity and give himself over to his ‘nature’.

His theory is that everything in nature operates on a higher scale, and that by conforming yourself to the conventions of ‘all of society’, man cuts himself of from that rhythm which controls life. The text then proceeds to encourage people to get back to that state. To live in tune with the intuition of the spirit, which he insists, will not mislead you. Can not mislead in fact, because the spirit is inherently attuned to the will of the highest power.

He emphasizes over and over again that in order to gain your own independence, one must first abandon all learned things and seek to accumulate thereafter only the knowledge which one attains firsthand and deems pertinent to be put into your truth.

While his language may not always reflect a humble tone, his overall message of universality is a premise, which places the individual above the masses, regardless of their identity as long as they act out of their own personal concious choices or decisions. While at first this may not reflect the common idea of humility, the premise is that everyone has the potential to reach the highest esteem, and so no one person is superior to another. This sentiment also portrays the optimism, which spreads the speaker’s views. Every one can achieve happiness, for it is not depending upon anything inherent, instead, it requires a simple shift in ones mental pattern, a shift any given person can make at any point in their life. Though Emerson may come off as supercilious at times, he does so from an equal rights standpoint. His character has no prescribed prejudices rather he bases his judgements on independence of thought and strength of conviction. Emerson’s character exhibits a sense of dual personality that pretty much eliminates any extremes of his character. While in one paragraph he may border on superiority and speaking as a teacher, in the next he humbly admits that he has much more to learn. The true nature of his character therefor remains almost elusive, save a few traits that can be matched without limiting their bearer to a certain disposition, such as honesty and integrity. Emerson’s duality was undoubtedly deliberate. As an intellectual whose thoughts were constantly meeting many great influences, maintaining a certain consistency of thought would have limited him too much.

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