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Final Project Examining Transcendentalism through Contemporary Culture

FinalProject: Examining Transcendentalism through Contemporary Culture

RalphWaldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are the greatesttranscendentalists in the history of America. Transcendentalism isthe ability of an individual to rise above the earthly concerns,where an individual must seek spiritual, and not material, theessential truths, and greatness of life using intuition. A goodexample of knowing something intuitively is parents knowing there issomething wrong with their child without having to talk to him/her.Using Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to examinetranscendentalism through contemporary culture to compile a report onhow relevant their work is more than a century after their existence.

Thequote “Donot trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes orfriends… Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts”(Thoreau 413) is one of my favorite quotes by Thoreau. This isbecause it urges me not to be preoccupied with material things ofthis earth and social expectations. Rather, having a clear mind andfocused on long lasting things is very essential. Conformity in tothe world has seen western cultures dominating in most parts of theworld in different aspects of life. For instance, the western way ofplaying music has really influenced many other parts of the world.TupacShakurwas the pioneer of hip-hop music and most other musicians after himhave conformed to the genre. Thoreau also says, in the book Walden,Volume 1,Ilearned this, at least, by my experiment that if one advancesconfidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live thelife which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected incommon hours”(412) speaks to me volumes. This quote from Waldenmeans that convention dictates do not have a place in me if I want tomake unexpected success in the way that I perceive it to be.

Thoreaualso says, “…Ihad but ten cents in the world, and it surpassed my arithmetic totell, if I was that man who had ten cents, or who had a farm, or tendollars….I sold him the farm for just what I gave for it….But Iretained the landscape…” (408).thisquote, to me, means t6hat the most important thing is having thethought that came up with an idea, even though I may sell that ideato someone else. In the contemporary cultures, patents are ideas thatprotect one’s idea from implementation by another. However,sometimes people sell patents making profits but remain with the mindthat came up with the patent. One good example is the cartoonindustry where patents and the laugh industry retain the free thoughtof an individual.

Emersonsays the following about confidence, “Whosowould be a man must be a nonconformist….Nothing is at last sacredbut the integrity of your own mind….consistency is the hobgoblin oflittle minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers anddivines” (Emerson 394).This quote to me means that making independent decisions withoutfollowing others an important aspects of being a man. Acting andwriting scripts of movies is one example of a field that requiresconfidence while conforming to the script as though the situation isreal. Concerning the importance of nature, Emerson says, “Standingon the bare ground….I became a transparent eyeball….The greatestdelight which the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of anoccult relation between man and the vegetable”(Emerson 390-391). This quote means that that the greatest gift ofnature is to embrace humanity and the ability to reduce ourloneliness. Newspaper articles have been very effective in callingpeople to care for the environment across the world. There are alsomovements around the world that seeks to care for the environment.

Emerson,in the book TheComplete Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson,has the following quote about simplicity. “Itis easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion it is easyin solitude to live after our own but the great man is he who in themidst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence ofsolitude,”(478). This quote, to me means that simplicity is an ingredient to abeing a great man making decisions and standing by them making a mangreat. A good example is the way customers dictate the quality ofproducts in the markets thus making manufacturers to bow to theirdemands. Concerning individualism, Emerson says, “Do not go wherethe path may lead, go instead where there is path and leave a trail.”This means that making decisions that will change other people’slives, while not doing the same thing others are, is very importantin my life. A good example is becoming an entrepreneur who comes upwith unique ideas to affect people’s lives such as the laughindustry and cartoon networks.

Inthe book CivilDisobedience,Thoreau says, “Thatgovernment is best, which governs least,” (349). This means thatthe best government should be a good manager and portray leadershipnot more of governance. A good example in the contemporary world isthe introduction of democracy, which requires governments to listento the needs of the people. The media is setting the agenda indifferent capacities and the governments working to fulfill the needsof the people. In the same book, Thoreau says the following quoteabout materialism. “Itis preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, thatprevents us from living freely and nobly,”(223). This means that becoming possessed with searching for materialpossession of this world does contribute to our sadness and sorrow.For example, becoming rich makes a man more preoccupied to search formore money that he at one-point starts being afraid of people in theneighborhood for fear of robbery, and lack of time with their family.


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Emerson,Ralph W, and Stanley Appelbaum. Self-reliance,and Other Essays.New York: Dover Publications, 1993. Internet resource.

Emerson,Ralph W, TheComplete Prose Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson,New York: Kessinger Publishing. 2011. Print.

Thoreau,Henry D, and Henry D. Thoreau. Walden&amp on the Duty of Civil Disobedience.Fairfield, IA: 1st World Library – Literary Society, 2004. Print.

Thoreau,Henry, D. CivilDisobedience,Fairfield,IA: Cricket House Books LLC, 2013. Print.

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