Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

In his second essay of his first series, Emerson disputes how great men make themselves. What makes them great is their trust in their own minds, and by that trust they dare the novelty created in their minds to be revealed to wider audiences.

Insist on yourself, never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.

With his amiable style he inspires people into creating things with their own minds or hands. He believes that what comes from within, is only true.

What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? /—/ If I am the Devil’s child, I will live then from the Devil. No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.

It’s like raising children – something I have no experience in and can only talk about my own childhood memories, notions from then, and other observances. Force the kid to do something, to follow someone else’s dreams or the dogmas of the society and they are more likely to grow up ignorant towards their self – shallow and never daring to dive into the depths of their souls and desires. Urge or guide the kid to seek for their own dreams and aspirations – or how J. Campbell put it – follow their bliss, and they will embrace the world, empathize sincerely with others, respect life and people, and their minds will be capable of the extraordinary.

Let the kid follow their bliss and the sacredness of tradition will follow. They will make their own traditions, discover what is sacred and very likely come to the point till they realize that some values of their ancestors they hold true as well.

We need the leaders of our societies to urge us find our love, our aspirations. Emerson criticizes thee who travel barely for entertainment, and not to discover something greater than self; thee who do not live mindfully. He praises all that is in accordance to living naturally, that is, finding your bliss and following it.

What is life worth if it is lived to fulfill others’ dreams? What is life worth if it is lived without yet once realizing one’s presence, powers and all the possibilities?

What is the purpose of life? Evolutionists would say, to reproduce. In the framework of Emerson’s philosophy it should be to evolve, to leave the world knowing it became better since you were around, without dreaming of the accolades; to experience all the beautiful experiences life can give us. Whether one believes in reincarnation or not, it is always more fulfilling to enjoy life – even the sorrows. Enjoy the ride while it lasts!

I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions.

He insists on staying true to oneself, always. Why would you bother leaving someone a good impression if you do not care of them and do not want them in your life. It’s necessary in diplomacy, yet an irrelevant hypocritical practice in everyday life.

Be honest if you find no pleasure in another’s company. Ways to remove yourself from their presence are myriad. If someone chooses a direct way to say it, and they tell it to you, feel free not to feel insulted. It is a great opportunity to take a look inside, observe your behaviour, aspirations, thoughts and think again whether you really wanted them in your life. If yes, change.

Emerson, as usual, surprises with his choice of words and eloquence in which he can send the most brutal arrows, yet sound like a true gentleman who aimed to insult noone. His books sound like collection of wise quotes one can throw almost anywhere.

A random quote found by opening the book at random:

A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world.

And everything he says makes you think, and makes sense.

To get into his mind, get his books:

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