Transcendentalism In Modern Culture
Transcendentalism can be defined by the belief that your intuitive thoughts are more important than knowledge, and is pursued by ‘living deliberately’. Transcendentalism developed five main morals over time. Firstly, non-conformity, the belief that we must follow our hearts and become unalike from everyone else in society. Individualism, the belief that the highest authority is oneself. Feeling and Intuition, the idea that your personal opinion is better than past knowledge of a subject. Confidence in the ability of man, the significance of having confidence in yourself. And finally, probably the most important of the five, the importance of nature, the idea that everything is a reflection of the divine soul. These beliefs spread throughout the world with the help of several influential people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, author of “Self-Reliance,” who strongly influenced the transcendentalist movement in the mid-1900s’, as well as Henry David Thoreau who wrote his well-known masterpiece, “Walden.” We know these philosophers strongly influenced people in the 1800s and 1900s, but how strongly have they influenced American Culture today?
Even if you don’t realize it, Transcendentalism is present in modern-day culture. It was extremely easy to find examples in my day-to-day life. There are countless examples in American culture today, but I found several fascinating examples which I believe express the main ideas of Transcendentalism perfectly. Firstly, the Offtime phone app. Offtime restricts phone usage and reminds its users to go outside. This is a perfect example of the importance of nature. The creators of the app stated, “In a hyperconnected world, it is increasingly difficult to find the time to disconnect and focus on what matters to us”(Offtime). This proclamation assents to the fifth moral of transcendentalism, the importance of nature. Offtime sets its restrictions for its users to take a break from the life inside of their phones and reminds them to go outside and see the beauty that the world has to offer.
The “We Can Do It” poster is probably the most popular and well-recognized poster of all time. The poster was created in 1943 by J. Howard Miller during the climax of World War II to promote women’s partaking in jobs to benefit the war. Miller’s poster is a perfect example of having confidence in the ability of man. The poster glorified the roles of working women and persuaded many other women to join the workforce. This was ultimately the turn in the world where women were beginning to gain respect and gratitude from men in society, and it was the confidence that allowed them to do so.
Music has a lot of influence on us today, so singers and songwriters express their feelings and opinions through their songs one of these people being, Bombshell, the singer of “The Power of One.” There are many lyrics from her song that stick out, but this one caught my eye. “One grain of sand can turn the tide, One single spark can light the night, One simple dream, one gentle word”(Bombshell). Bombshell’s main point is that you can change the world one step at a time, and you don’t need anyone to help you do it. This is a perfect example of individualism and self-reliance, the belief that the highest authority is oneself. Bombshell also incorporates a little bit of having confidence in the ability of a man in their song as well. After looking at these examples of Transcendentalism, how do they compare with Thoreau and Emerson’s idea of living deliberately?
One of the most famous transcendentalists, Henry David Thoreau, practically lived off of the morals of transcendentalism and eventually moved to the woods to ‘live deliberately’. He insisted that life was too complicated and that we don’t appreciate everything that the world has to offer. One expert from his essay, “Walden” states, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”(Thoreau, Where I Lived and What I Lived For). Even though things of this extent usually don’t happen today, we can still see the influence that Thoreau had on us today in our everyday life.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was more or less the leader of the transcendentalist movement in the early 1800s and paved the way for transcendentalists that followed him. Emerson is most well known for his essay, “Self-Reliance,” which focuses on how humans lose their respect and admiration for nature as time goes on. “These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.” What Emerson means by this is that our perception of the world changes as we grow up and change. He felt the world was becoming disconnected, much like a lot of people today who propose that we spend too much time inside and on our phones. Will our advances in technology even allow us to ‘live deliberately’?
Looking for examples of transcendentalism in today’s modern culture allowed me to better understand transcendentalism. After I understood what to look for, it was very easy to find examples because they’re everywhere! However all five morals are everywhere, I found that the importance of nature is the most predominant moral. I feel this is because most people still truly appreciate the Earth and will do anything to keep it clean and safe.