One of the core elements of Emerson’s transcendental ideas that can be found in contemporary American psyche is the intuitive belief. He postulates the encouragement to act freely rather than automatically following popular opinion and put a special emphasis on originality, as the saying goes “be the original thinker, not the follower”. It means that people should use their faculty of mind to think about something and make a decision by relying on their own capacities. They do not have to conform to what society perceived as true because it might be the opposite and conformity really limits one’s mind to go beyond than it can go. In addition, one of the things worth noted in his Self Reliance is “to believe your thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men.” – that is genius (Emerson ). In order to seek for truth, one must not only use their senses and imagination but also in need of the contemplation of soul. Hence, the basic ideas of transcendentalism have become a part in America’s evolution as a strong country.
Transcendentalism reflects well in the concept of the American Dream. It is a concept coined a historian named James Truslow Adam which he described it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.’ This means that everyone should get equal opportunity to be successful in their life and their success is attained by their own capabilities, not by their lineage or status in the society. The basic notion of American Dream lies deeply in the tenets of American Declaration of Independence (Kenton). It is “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Anyone can live their live to the fullest and gained utmost happiness depends on how he or she defines it and according to self-reliance. Thus, in contemporary America, achieving American Dream is associated with those who are able to own house, work in a high position and enjoy access to healthcare and education.
In the intellectual field, Emerson becomes a great model and is responsible for the birth of many American writers that centres transcendentalism as their main concern. The transcendentalism movement is one of the literary independence that proved America has created a uniquely new body of literature. This also showed a clear distinction of something new and free from any European association. Those prominent figures are Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Frederick Henry Hedge and others. Emerson’s great admirer, Thoreau has put self reliance into practice where he lived alone at some moment without interjection of society. In his book, Walden, he wrote about simplicity of things, the nature and about life that is wasted due to conformity to society and the pursuit of worldly materials.
As most of these transcendentalists worked as teachers, this has simultaneously contribute in modelling America’s education system and still relevant to contemporary American psyche. Take Bronson Alcott as an example. He managed to inculcate transcendentalism ideas into a teaching pedagogy called Maxims of Education. This outline incorporates 58 teaching method such as “to teach, by the exercise of reason, to teach, to improve the science of instruction and of mind and to teach with independence” (Alcott). He believed that teachers play important roles in assisting their students to think for themselves as a need in the future. Thus, his words in the maxims are ideals and to kept in mind by teachers. Based on his guidelines, he hoped that future American should be able to think creatively, able to express their own thoughts and able to use their intuitive nature to guide them in searching for the truth.
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