Emerson said, “Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind…” I like the fact that Emerson has an imagination. This statement is very true because I cannot look at anything in nature without having some type of feeling come to me. Whether it is a blue sky and happiness or a gray sky and sorrow, all things in nature bring a feeling.
On discipline, Emerson writes that nature is a discipline of the understanding in intellectual truths. I like this because Emerson wrote of nature in so many forms; he included natural human characteristics in his definitions of nature.
In Self-Reliance, the passage that begins, “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature,” is an insightful passage. Emerson believed that the one and only way to live a moral and pious life was to follow one’s conscience. Emerson was a firm believer in this type of morality that each person holds within himself. I think it is wonderful that he equates his “nature” with his conscience, which is people’s natural sense of what is right and what is wrong. I, too, believe that conscience and not some rulebook is the true source of all goodness. Ideally, if everyone had a well-developed sense of morality, then the world would not even need laws; people could just follow their consciences and the world would be at peace.
A second passage I want to discuss from Self-Reliance because I truly connected with it was the passage on non-conformity. Emerson’s idea of non-conformity is very different from that which you would commonly hear today in our society, but it is probably the best definition of non-conformity that I have heard in my lifetime. Emerson believed a man should “stand his ground” in the face of adversity, and not just give up his own values to follow a crowd. Emerson believed that non-conformity builds character. Emerson wrote about how everyone in society seems the same, which still holds true today, but that one person with real character reminds you of no one and nothing else. The problem with today’s world is that everyone just wants to follow a crowd; nobody really cares about what he or she believes anymore. All they care about is what everyone else will think is acceptable. Among young people, this is a tremendous problem; kids just want to be accepted by their peers. In order to achieve this end, they do things that they know are wrong, jeopardizing their own character and integrity in order to fit in with a certain group or clique.
It is interesting in “Self-Reliance” when...