Perfection In Self-Reliance, By Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good Essays
In “Self-reliance” Emerson makes a bold claim on the concept of time and man’s conceptual idea of perfection. He states: “Man cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present” (151). Emerson would seem to argue that man cannot exists in the present moment unlike nature. Which is another way of saying that man simply cannot be or just exist. In order to be man must leave his thoughts of time behind and simply exists in all facets of life. This brings up two important questions. Frist: what causes man to stay fixated on the past? Is it his aware conscious? Or is it societies’ conspiracy for conformity? Secondly, how can man hope to imitate nature? Emerson’s answers to these questions lies in the understanding of his rose …show more content…
He states: “Theses roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are what they are” (151). In other words, a rose will always be a rose. It does not look to other roses for comparison. A trait Emerson hints at as being negatively human. Furthermore, Emerson begins to develop his argument that nature simply is. It does not construct time: past, present, or future. It just is. Further backing this idea, Emerson says that, “There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence” (151). This is another way of stating that time simply and completely has no relevance in nature. Nature is at every moment. It remembers not the past nor looks to a future. It simply is there. “Before a leaf-bud has bursts, its whole life acts; in the full blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less” (151). That is to say, in every stage of the flowers life, it simply exists as meant to. Emerson uses this to convey that nature is true to itself. The lack of present moment recognition in man is what Emerson calls out to be not true to …show more content…
“Nature is satisfied and it satisfied nature in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers he does not live in the present” (151). This is Emerson’s way of stating that man is busy with the past and future he cannot live in the present. Once humanity and man remove their notion of time, the perfect self can be achieved. As it can in nature who exists simply. Once this is achieved, Emerson claims that man can be “happy and strong” but this is only achieved when one ignores the “heedless of riches that surround him” (151) Simply put, once man ignores the conformist and society he can be. Existing for the sake of existing like nature is how man can truly be. Tossing the notion of time out the window, man can avoid the societal pressure to conform as nature has done. Man can be as he was meant to be.
Emerson’s argument in “Self-reliance” revolves around the notion of true self and achieving that. His argument that nature highlights man’s fault with time and failure to exist is explained logically through the analogy of a rose. By using this Emerson draws the conclusion that man’s lack of focus for being revolves around the concept of time as humanity knows it. Man cannot simply be, like the rose, at every stage of its life. Instead, man settles for a constructed idea of time and continues to dwell in the past or look toward

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    During the Transcendentalist movement, self reliance is shown in Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, and Self Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In Walden and Self Reliance, both texts say do what you believe and rely on yourself. In these Transcendentalism stories both say that oneself should do the work themselves, do what you love, and do not follow society. By embarking his journey near home, Emerson can show how civilization is achievable for anyone. Emerson also lives with nature and God, and he does not live for the past or the future, nor does he compare himself to others, he only relies on his own thoughts and beliefs.…

    • 1044 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    This paper offers an analysis of Jean-Paul Sartre perspective of ‘existential humanism’ in order to argue that this view of existential is very optimistic and it poses a problem for individuals. The central theme in Sartre’s work is that man is born into a void where there is nothing, including God. As a result, man creates the self and his essence. The free choices he makes. In making choices, man is not only committing to himself but to all of mankind.…

    • 937 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    With the ridge structure of an authoritarian government Hobbes, believes that human nature when is given “limited resources and no recognized authority” it creates a catalyst for the innate human desire allows for man’s powers to be both absolute and arbitrary.” One may be being questioning the fact that within Hobbes’ theory of political liberalism there is no liberty at all. The exact opposite is true. Liberty in the modern thought process of Hobbes is found within the state of nature, “all people possessed perfect, complete liberty.” Hobbes continues to analyze this concept of the state of nature and the formation of it in…

    • 701 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    First and foremost, Nature is the almighty. Nature should always be our fist thought with everything that you do, say and think. Nature offers perpetual youth and joy and counteracts whatever misfortune befalls on an individual. “A nobler want of man is served by nature, namely, the love of Beauty” (1829). Emerson claims that nature is the source of all things pure and without it acting as a release for us, we lose appreciation and we, as a society, will eventually all become identical, emotionless robots.…

    • 1188 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    The civilized man takes what is available and declares it his. The modern man, therefore, puts himself in chains by letting his desires and not his needs drive him. The competition for resources limits the free will of an individual. Those without property have little room for advancing themselves, sharply in contrast with the natural man to whom advancement is a non-issue. While man may have been born free, in nature, man ends up putting himself in various…

    • 862 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Though overall, they mostly make the same points --that men are created equal, endowed with natural rights, and echange these rights for inclusion in society-- they are opposed in their views of the nature of man on an individual level. Hobbes is much more cynical, supposing that man is always out for his best interest, even if it means the harm of his neighbor; and John Locke takes the more righteous view of mankind. Which philosopher hit closer to the mark, in relation to actual human behavior, is hard to…

    • 1081 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    McCandless and Emerson both believe in the idea of non-conformity and self reliance. Chris believes that conforming to society is ridiculous and and that they only way to be eternally happy is to be your own person, much like the idea of Emerson who believes that non-conforming is the only way you can be a true man and be true to oneself. Also, Chris and Emerson both believe that someone should be able to be reliant on there self. Chris McCandless and Ralph Waldo Emerson both have similar ideas that relate to transcendentalism. Much like the beliefs of Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance, in Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Chris McCandless reflects the ideas of transcendentalism.…

    • 775 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    In this state, both refer to men as equals among them. Locke describes nature as a "state of perfect equality, where there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another". Similarly, Hobbes states that "nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of mind and body… “The difference between man and man is not so considerable”. For Hobbes, the time a man spends in a state of nature, it is as if he were in a state of war. Because if two men can not enjoy the same benefits, they become enemies and on the way to their end they try to disappear.…

    • 923 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Fides Et Ratio Analysis

    • 1588 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Therefore, the ordering of man’s freedom towards truth does not limit it, rather “once the truth is denied to human beings, it is pure illusion to set them free” (90). While it may seem paradoxical that freedom is attained by binding one’s self to truth, freedom is relational by its nature and cannot therefore exist in isolation. Each man’s freedom is ordered to some purpose, but if it is not truth, then he is limited by his end’s…

    • 1588 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Emerson is saying that, if one is a conformist life will not be lived to its fullest, it will end up in a dissapointment. This could also be portrayed as do not follow others, be proud to be unique and life will not disappoint. Also said by Emerson, “... Whose would be a man must be nonconformist” (Emerson 326). He is saying to be a man, which does not necessarily mean man it could be any important and powerful figure, one has to be their own. To succeed, one needs to celebrate their individualism.…

    • 1208 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays

Related Topics