What does Ralph Waldo Emerson mean when he says “self-reliance”? Is it essential for the person to become self-sufficient?
Emerson emphasizes the importance of people being self-reliant and trusting their emotions. “The strength that exists in him is fresh in nature and none, but he knows what he cannot do, and he will not know unless he tries.” (paragraph 2, page 2) Emerson asserts in this sentence the importance of being self-reliant and trusting yourself in daily decisions to prevent being fooled by others. The author has disdain for people who disregard their beliefs to embrace the same ideas from others, describing them as second-hand. (paragraph 1, second page) According to Emerson, being self-reliant enables human beings to acknowledge the strengths within them and excel in whatever they undertake to do. Emerson enforces the need to trust oneself because that allows a person to exhibit self-esteem and also be authentic in his work.
Obedience: Emerson says that we quickly submit to special societies and dead institutions. What are some ways that you think this might be true for anyone?
Emerson states that it is better being authentic and believing in one’s feelings instead of following what has been set by other people. The writer notes that some negative attributes may be masked in charitable works (para 7 page 4). While obedience may be good, it is important to question the motives of the people who bring up the rules. For instance, the public may choose to obey the politicians who have all along being in power without necessarily examining the work they have done before. The society also expects human beings to behave in a certain way, perhaps to obtain a certain reward which leads to conformity.
Education, Giving: Emerson refuses to contribute funds for “the education at college of fools” (para 7). What do you think of Emerson talking about withholding his philanthropy or giving, as he suggest in paragraph 8?
Emerson acknowledges that people engage in charitable works to deceive the public and hide their inefficiency (Para 8). He mentions that charitable acts are a means of deceiving the public into believing that the leaders are genuine and affectionate while they are not. Giving should hence be done from a clean slut and not as a means of deceiving the public and gaining leverage over the others.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Self-Reliance. Dodge Publishing Company, 1989.