Transcendentalism Today Essay, Research Paper
Transcendentalism is a philosophy that declares the primacy of the spiritual and transcendental over the material and hypothetical beliefs. It focuses on non-conformity, optimism and passive civil disobedience. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson were models of these ideas. They focused on the fact that you should do something because it feels right to you not because its what everyone else is doing. Emerson believed that optimism exercised with confidence if the best way to achieve what you want in life to be happy. Emerson once said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm, if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined he will meet success, unexpected in common hours”. This simply meant that if your strive to achieve your dreams confidently and with a good attitude you will eventually meet success. Thoreau believed that the unexamined life was no life at all and that you should consider everything you do to find out if it is the best way to live. He believed a comfortable non-conformed life is better than a conformed materialistic life. Supporting this belief he once said, “I would rather sit on a pumpkin than and have it to myself than be crowed on a velvet cushion”. As a society today we need to think more about our lives and decided if we conform to each other to an unnecessary extent. If we do, it is time for a change. The following example model how people separate themselves from a conformed society to do what they fill is best for them individually.
The movie Jerry Maguire is an example of non-conformity and optimism. The main character Jerry Maguire (played by Tom Cruise) is at the height of his career. He works for a high-powered sports agency and devotes his life to his superstar clients. He’s always looking for the biggest deal. One of Jerry Maguires biggest clients gets injured in a game and may no longer play. Maguire gets a guilty conscience because he was so focused on making money that he lost sight of what was really important. He writes up a touchy-feely memo on the subject of integrity. It focused on fewer clients and less money. He impulsively circulated it among his colleagues. Maguire instantly regretted circulating the memo because he realized that not everyone shared his desire for self-improvement. His boss was one of them. His boss disagreed with Maguire and he was fired. Jerry Maguire decided for himself that he would try for a change for the company he was formally employed. He believed that if he followed confidently in the direction of his dreams he could eventually succeed. A change was not the result in the company and he was forced to find another job that went along with his morals because it felt right. He expressed non-conformity in his actions. Ralph Waldo Emerson basically sums up what Jerry Maguire was thinking when he decided not to conform. Emerson said “Insist on yourself; never imitate; no one that lasts is scared, but the integrity of your own mind” this simply meant, to listen to your inner voice, never commit to conformity and always follow your inner voice.
Vegetarianism is another example of non-conformity. A Vegetarians’ diet excludes meat, poultry, and fish. There are a couple types of vegetarians. One type, the most healthful, the pure vegetarian (or “vegan”) diet, only includes foods of plant origin, such as nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. Another type, the “lacto-vegetarian” includes the mentioned plant foods along with dairy products. A “lacto-ovo-vegetarian” consumes both dairy and eggs. Vegetarians commonly decide for themselves that it does not feel right to consume meat, poultry or fish. The to be vegetarian decides, rather, to consume only pure substances. I, myself am I vegetarian. I decided a couple of years ago that I did not like the feeling of consuming something that was once living and slaughtered only for consumption. I would fall under the “lacto-ovo-vegetarian” because I do consume eggs and dairy products. Vegetarians go against popular world decision. They realize the health benefits from not consuming meat, poultry or fish with the added animal fat, protein and cholesterol and more fibers and antioxidants. Vegetarians break away from the norm because it feels right to them.
In the long-running Elian Gonzalez ordeal civil disobedience was exercised. Elian went through a horrific experience in his short 6-year life. Him and his mother left Cuban illegally being civilly disobedient because of the poor political environment in Cuba. He survived a shipwreck while his mother died literally in front of him. Common sense, tradition and law all say he should have been immediately returned to his loving father and grandparents. Yet our bizarre politic non-relationship with Castro’s Cuba, one of the world’s last battles with communism, twisted what should have been a simple custody case into an absolute revival of the Cold War. The politicians, the attorneys, the Cuban-American activists, religious leaders, the hundreds of thousands demonstrating in Havana, and last but certainly not least, Fidel Castro himself were civilly disobedient in not taking into consideration Elians best interest and rather arguing with past grudges still held. Thoreau believed “under a government which imprisons any unjustly place for a just man is also imprisoned. This quote goes along with the idea that philosophically Elian and his mother felt imprisoned in Cuba. They left to find a better life because it felt right (non-conformity). There fight for a better life went terribly wrong with Elian fate at stake. When they left Cuba they must have known what could have happened though they knew it was something that they had to do for themselves.
Transcendentalists like Thoreau and Emerson realized the need to directly experience life in order to achieve a fulfilled life. Focusing on optimism, non-conformity and passive civil disobedience Thoreau and Emerson set a universal example for many generations after them. Many people take after them in non-conformity, optimism and passive civil disobedience as the way to really live a fulfilled original life that is not conformed to societies universal beliefs or traditions. It is obvious that their influence was a great one seeing as how the three examples above are among the many examples of people today exercising the transcendental belief. And as Thoreau said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer”. Perhaps this is true. If living our own lives shouldn’t we all hear different drummers?