Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of the most remarkable men this country has produced.
He was a man whose works affected the entire world. He was born in Boston in 1803 and graduated from Harvard in 1821. His writings, his great essays, changed the lives of thousands, perhaps millions of people while they thoroughly shocked a segment of the world’s population.
His philosophy was transcendental, and he devoted a good part of his life to spreading the importance of individual freedom and self-reliance. In fact, “Self-Reliance” was the title of one of his most exceptional essays.
In this essay, he stressed the importance of being an individual, of trusting yourself and your mind to lead you to the way that is best for you.
Emerson wrote: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. He dismisses without notice his thought because it is his. In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”
How many times have you had an idea and done nothing with it, only to later see it used successfully by someone else?
He also writes: “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance. That imitation is suicide. That he must take himself for better or worse as his portion, that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none, but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”
Later in this same essay, Emerson wrote: “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
“A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best, but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver…”
“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. Great men have always done so and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.”
“What I must do is all what concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after our own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the crowd, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
When was the last time you got together with Emerson, why don’t you haul him down off his shelf?
His writings are as relevant today, maybe more so, than they were when he wrote them, more than a hundred years ago.
Emerson studied the wisdom of St. Bernard, who said: “Nothing can work me damage except myself. The harm that I sustain I carry about with me, and never am a real sufferer but by my own fault.”