Embracing Transcendentalism in the Modern Era
Start writing a post
Lifestyle

Embracing Transcendentalism: 6 Paths to a Mindful, Connected Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson's words of wisdom and their application to any young adult in their college years and beyond.

16882
herd of sheep on green grass field near gray rocky mountain during daytime
Photo by José María on Unsplash

It’s summertime, and you’re home from college. No term papers. No exams. No professor chasing you, hell bent on making your life miserable for his or her enjoyment. It’s time relax! Yet, you’re at a pool party that your parents dragged you to (away from your sweet air conditioning and Netflix), and you are forced to socialize with your parents' friends. They all keep repeating the same, cliché phrase saying to “live life to the fullest! Your college years are the best of your life!” Many of you reading this already know that ...

What many don’t know is that there are always ways to live a fuller life. Remember back to high school English class. Remember those droning lectures from your teacher that went on and on about the celebrated words of old white guys, most of whom had been dead for many years? One of those old white guys was Ralph Waldo Emerson.

For those who might have been caught taking a snooze during that class, Emerson was a New England minister, philosopher and writer. In his essay titled "Self Reliance," many of his principles reflect those of the core Transcendentalist ideals. If a college student reads Emerson's essay closely enough, he will discover how Emerson proposes to live a "virtuous" and "self-reliant" lifestyle free of the maladies of modern society and free to explore oneself. Here are six selected passages from Emerson’s essay for any college student to apply to his or her life this summer, during college and beyond:

1. “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.”

woman wearing silver-colored ring Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Life is unpredictable. It takes you down different roads, and at the end of each road, there may be a dead end or a detour. Sometimes the road may be a lonely one. Sometimes it may feel like your doing the wrong thing or you are not doing enough, whether it be studying for an exam or a fight with a friend. There may have been a time when the universe was working against you. Nevertheless, Emerson believe that things happen for a reason. Fate delivers challenges that we must overcome. The only way to overcome these obstacles is to trust in our ability; trust in the person we are and to trust that we did the best we could. Simply put: trust in yourself and trust in the type of person you are. Because if you are confident in yourself and your actions, then everything else life throws at you will seem all the less difficult.

2. “Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule. There is the man and his virtues. Men do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade. Their works are done as an apology or extenuation of their living in the world, — as invalids and the insane pay a high board.”

silhouette of man beside body of water during golden hour Photo by Iqx Azmi on Unsplash

It’s easy to accomplish things in life and, in the end, just meet expectations. However, it takes a certain type of individual to step up and let his true character shine. Take for instance, a mother with two young children and is so immersed in dealing with them that she forgets she left her wallet on the counter at the grocery store. There is no rule that says you must return it. No one will know that you held onto it. The mother will think that she had just lost it. That is the rule. The virtue would be to return the wallet to the mother for no promise of reward or anything. It is simply because you felt it was the right thing to do so that the mother will be able to provide for her children. That is the virtue. Approach the complex maneuverings in life with the idea that there is always a higher alternative than what society dictates you should do as a minimum requirement.

3. “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.”

This is the sign you've been looking for neon signage Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

It is easy to get caught up in popular trends. As a college student, it’s also popular to conform to the crowd and appear to belong. To do so results in living in a comfortable and safe social setting. Emerson rejects conformity and celebrates nonconformity, being different than what the crowd expects you to be. To live a fuller life, one must liberate himself from societal pressures and liberate his mind to be open to new ideas. With this liberation, he will win the admiration of the rest of the world. It’s what sets the CEOs apart from a fast food regional managers.

4. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do ... Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

green and yellow concrete pathway Photo by Rene Baker on Unsplash

There is no one right way to go about living a successful life. People change majors in college on a monthly basis. It’s also not bad to believe in something that no one else accepts. Hey, at least you’re thinking for yourself. Daring greatly or putting your faith in an idea that seems impossible already sets you apart from the rest of the herd. Let your fellow college peers snicker at your ideas. One day, it may be your name in the textbook their children are reading.

5. “The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure, that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It must be that when God [speaks] he should communicate, not one thing, but all things; should fill the world with his voice ... Whenever a mind is simple, and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away, — means, teachers, texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to it, — one as much as another.”

person in red sweater holding babys hand Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Human beings are naturally social animals. We rely on each other for friendship, kinship and relationships. But to broaden that, we are connected with the greater metaphysical universe. Nature and mankind live on the same planet, in the same galaxy of the same universe. Nature, in accordance with Transcendentalist thought, is the supreme governing authority in the universe that follows God’s law. There is a connection to everything, with the past acting as a cause and the future reflecting the effect. Appreciate all aspects of life on Earth and cherish the simple things rather than focus on the complicated few.

6. “If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined ... He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not 'studying a profession,' for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let a Stoic open the resources of man ... and that moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries, and customs out of the window, we pity him no more, but thank and revere him, — and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendor, and make his name dear to all history.”

brown wooden blocks on white surface Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

This passage is simple: never quit. Always try again. There is no one chance to get something right. Life provides opportunities for us to grow and to try and try again. Because we didn’t get into our first choice of school or we didn’t nail that internship doesn’t mean our lives are over. Instead of dwelling on those things, welcome the hundreds of possibilities that become open to you than you once thought before. It may take us thousands of tries, but in the end, we will each revel in our own success.

Report this Content
Student Life

Top 10 Reasons My School Rocks!

Why I Chose a Small School Over a Big University.

93232
man in black long sleeve shirt and black pants walking on white concrete pathway

I was asked so many times why I wanted to go to a small school when a big university is so much better. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a big university is great but I absolutely love going to a small school. I know that I miss out on big sporting events and having people actually know where it is. I can't even count how many times I've been asked where it is and I know they won't know so I just say "somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin." But, I get to know most people at my school and I know my professors very well. Not to mention, being able to walk to the other side of campus in 5 minutes at a casual walking pace. I am so happy I made the decision to go to school where I did. I love my school and these are just a few reasons why.

Keep Reading...Show less
Lots of people sat on the cinema wearing 3D glasses
Pinterest

Ever wonder what your friend meant when they started babbling about you taking their stapler? Or how whenever you ask your friend for a favor they respond with "As You Wish?" Are you looking for new and creative ways to insult your friends?

Well, look no further. Here is a list of 70 of the most quotable movies of all time. Here you will find answers to your questions along with a multitude of other things such as; new insults for your friends, interesting characters, fantastic story lines, and of course quotes to log into your mind for future use.

Keep Reading...Show less
Lifestyle

The Ultimate Birthday: Unveiling the Perfect Day to Celebrate!

Let's be real, the day your birthday falls on could really make or break it.

42201
​different color birthday candles on a cake
Blacksburg Children's Museum

You heard it here first: birthdays in college are some of the best days of your four years. For one day annually, you get to forget about your identity as a stressed, broke, and overworked student, and take the time to celebrate. You can throw your responsibilities for a day, use your one skip in that class you hate, receive kind cards and gifts from loved ones and just enjoy yourself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Featured

Unleash Inspiration: 15 Relatable Disney Lyrics!

Leave it to Disney to write lyrics that kids of all ages can relate to.

61386
The 15 most inspiring Disney songs

Disney songs are some of the most relatable and inspiring songs not only because of the lovable characters who sing them, but also because of their well-written song lyrics. While some lyrics make more sense with knowledge of the movie's story line that they were written for, other Disney lyrics are very relatable and inspiring for any listener.

Keep Reading...Show less
Featured

The Six Most Iconic Pitbull Lyrics Of All Time

Mr. Worldwide just wants to see you succeed.

79304
a photo of artist Pitbull

It is no secret that Pitbull is a gifted artist, but many fail to remember that he can be a source of great inspiration as well. The following is a list of iconic Pitbull lyrics that we know and love. Read on to feel empowered — if you think you can handle it.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments