Meaning Of Life Emerson Analysis

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The fundamental question every human asks is “What is the meaning of life?” Scientific, philosophical, and religious inquiries and perspectives have been offered by the greatest thinkers of Ancient times to the most esteemed men of modern times in an attempt to answer this age-old question. Indeed, all men attempt to answer this question during their lifetime whether or not they are specifically or intentionally doing so. Two such commentaries that unintentionally address the meaning of life come to mind: Samuel Johnson’s A History of Rasselas and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”. Even though answering the question about “the meaning of life” is not explicitly stated in these writings, upon closer review of the works of these two English …show more content…
Emerson’s piece explains how one should live one’s life and provides instruction on ensuring that one’s life is a life worth living. The essay contains a thorough statement of Emerson’s emphasis on the need for an individual to avoid conformity and false consistency, and instead follow his own instincts and ideas. And, if one accomplishes Emerson’s goal, one will have achieved an understanding of the meaning or purpose of one’s …show more content…
Throughout A History of Rasselas, the dangers of removing oneself from the world becomes a prevailing theme. One first sees this in Rasselas himself, as Rasselas resents being captive in the happy valley because he does not have access to the outside world. Next, consider Rasselas’ conversation with the hermit. The hermit laments to Rasselas, “I have been long comparing the evils with the advantages of society, and resolve to return into the world to-morrow. The life of a solitary man will be certainly miserable, but not certainly devout.” This startles Rasselas as he assumed that the hermit would be living purposefully - after all, he made the choice of solitude himself, he is very learned, and he has everything a man could want. However, the hermit wishes that he could return to people and the world. Johnson sees communion with others as an important aspect of one’s life. Man needs to share in the experiences and burdens of one another. Differing from Emerson, Johnson believes that being a non-conformist removes oneself from the world and causes feelings of emptiness. In essence, Samuel Johnson sees community and consistency as foundations in living a purposeful and meaningful life; Emerson does

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