Seriously, Self Reliance?!: Squabble 1

Squabble 1: Ok, maybe there’s something here…maybe…

Discussion quote #1: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages.” “Yet he dismisses without notice his own thought, because it is his.” p.19 Self – Reliance and Other Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson: Dover Thrift Editions

Jorge Translation: An individual needs to trust her/his own instincts and not succumb to or be distracted by the so-called brilliant ideas of those who are “known” to be knowledgeable. Individuals tend to dismiss their ideas simply because they are their own.   

These two sentences summarize the main premise of Emerson’s essay; in-short Emerson is making the argument that while it can be difficult to listen to one’s own ideas/opinions, individuals must endeavor to put aside all of the many voices telling them what to think and how to feel, in order to stay true to their own instincts/ethics/feelings. Setting aside (for the moment) all of Emerson’s mid-19th century, male privilege, wealth, and educational advantage, his point is one that resonates with the modern reader struggling to stay true to her/his own thoughts and ideology amidst the ever present influence of social media and information overload in the digital age.  

In family systems theory this is called being “self differentiated.” So basically, knowing where you stand and still being able to fully engage with other people, their points of view, emotions, even those “bards and sages”….you know, being a f-ing grown up!

This is a powerful message and one that we need to be reminded of regularly. 

Yes! We do need to be reminded to live a self differentiated life for our own health, the health of our family and any system we are a part of. 

How often have you been in a situation (classroom, meeting, etc.) where you wanted to say something but kept quiet because you weren’t sure if what you had to say was on-point/relevant/insert your own particular insecurity? Emerson would say you must hold true to yourself even if it goes against what others perceive as true/right.

And in theory I agree with this, but Emerson gets to say this with pretty clear assurance that he won’t be risking his body, freedom, financial security or very life for his beliefs or in living his “true self.”  All those risks and more are powerful realities for many who have tried/are trying to live their most authentic and honest life. So where do I land?  With an “easy for you to say Ralph!”  If you want a good recap of Ralph’s point, told from people (fictional in this case, not exactly fictional; more like fictional representations of real people) who actually have a leg to stand on around oppression and rejection then check out this video. It’s a heck of a lot shorter and more accessible then Ralph.

Now to set aside the snark and EPIC eye-roll for a second, I do agree with Emerson and maybe even respect him…a little bit…on ‘one other thing.’

Squabble 1.5 coming tomorrow, we’ll delve into that ‘one other thing!’