American currencies, specifically coins, have two sides: a head and a tail. The head and tail are different, yet they are still part of the same coin. Two American authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, represent two sides of the same coin: Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism swept through America as a new worldview in the 1900’s. Transcendentalism is a philosophy that asserts the primacy of the spiritual and transcendental over the material, that deals with aspects of nature.
In order to discuss a topic, one must know what said topic is. Transcendentalism is a movement in the nineteenth century and it encourages the idea of individualism, dislike for materialism, a strong connection to nature, and to rely on one’s intuition above all else. This belief and the well-educated people who followed it were decades ahead of their time, as it was for self-independence and was against slavery. These ideas are demonstrated in the story. Henry David Thoreau and his brother, John Thoreau, are teaching a class to their young students out in a field when Henry notices that a woman, Ellen Sewell, is scribbling away at her notebook.
The rise of Transcendentalism in the 19th century is similar to the more extreme and vocal supports of popular modern movements in today’s modern world. Upon researching the topic, i found that Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Putnam, and Frederic Henry Hedge founded the Transcendental Club and began publishing journals and other papers on the topic. I related this to modern day individuals who make use of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to post their thoughts and philosophies on the topic of political correctness and individuality. Transcendentalists believed that people were naturally good and were corrupted by political and religious institutions.
Transcendentalism in the 21st Century Now Ralph Waldo Emerson created this philosophy that he called transcendentalism over 150 years ago. There are many ways people can represent these ideals of transcendentalism such as being a nonconformist, rebelling against things that contradict one’s opinion, living a simple life, appreciating nature, accepting the circumstances in life, searching for the meaning of life independently, and standing up for personal beliefs. Now with technology sweeping nations all over, some people might argue that these ideals are not valued anymore while others disagree. In small ways, all over the world, people are doing simple things that pertain to the transcendentalism philosophy.
Was Chris McCandless a true transcendentalist? Transcendentalism is a system developed by Immanuel Kant, based on the idea that, in order to understand the nature of reality, one must first examine and analyze the reasoning process that governs the nature of experience. Influenced by romanticism, Platonism, and Kantian philosophy, it taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity, and its members held progressive views on feminism and communal living. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were central figures. In Jon Krakauer’s novel, Into the Wild, McCandless is viewed as a transcendentalist.
“We need the tonic of wildness... At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because it is unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden. In Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, a biographical account of Chris McCandless’s life, after graduating from college, 22-year-old McCandless decides to cut all ties from his family and hitchhike across America and live as simply as possible.
Oftentimes, people read their favorite books or watch popular movies and they are completely oblivious to the origin of the theme(s). In fact, a collection of recent movies, books and paintings include themes dating back to mid-19th century. Indeed, the 19th century transcendentalists inspired many of today’s influential artists. For instance, mainstream movies like the “Star Wars” saga, best selling books such as the Hunger Games series, and distinguished artwork like Dispersion all suggest transcendentalist themes. Even though humanity moved farther away from simple lifestyle, some ideas from transcendentalists remain prominent in modern movies, books, and paintings.
Transcendentalist Era In the 1830’s, a group called the transcendentalist arose. It lasted from 1836 to just about 1861. Some people were upset about how the Unitarian church was running things so instead people turned to nature. Basically they believed that any individual was more powerful than any institution.
Transcendentalists were writers from the American Romantic Era that held unique beliefs about life and how to live it. They wrote many essays that provided guidelines on how to live a successful life. Most of what they articulated was very out of the ordinary for their time, especially their characteristics. Transcendentalists demonstrated a multitude of characteristics throughout their writing, but the three most obvious were lawlessness, individualism and simplicity. One main characteristic of Transcendentalists was lawlessness.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a lecturer and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement in the nineteenth century, once stated, “Great souls are they who see that spiritual is stronger than material force, that thoughts rule the world.” In the movie I Am, written and directed by Tom Shadyac, he poses two questions. These questions address the problem with human nature and how we as a society can attempt to fix it. Society’s difficulties are greed and not realizing an individual’s true meaning because it focuses too much on materialism and immediate satisfaction. Shadyac’s major themes of man’s search for happiness, greed, and the nature of man in relation to man’s meaning, purpose, and end, and happiness will aid in answering the questions that he poses.