Excerpts and thoughts on self-reliance and what they mean to me. Starting with Emerson and adding as I go. As I read and re-read different essays and passages from the past, I will edit them and makes notes on what affects me most. You can sense the great messages in writing from the past, yet some of it gets lost in the older language used. As I go through this and understand the deep messages, I’ll put them into easier to understand vocabulary.
Genius is belief in your own thought. Belief that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all people. Speak and follow what your gut is telling you instead of going with the flow. We call Moses, Plato and Milton great people because they wrote what we all think. Not what we all say. Learn to trust your intuition and flashes of mind more than the voices of authority washed in public opinion.
In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility when the rest of the world disagrees. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
You Deserve Nothing – Work For Everything With The Hand You’re Delt
There is a time in every persons education when they arrive at the conviction that envy is ignorance and that imitation is suicide. That you must take yourself for better for worse as your portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to you but through your toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to you to till.
Your gifts and talents are unique in the world. No one can judge what you are capable of until you have tried your hardest. Not even you.
We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that unique gift which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted. But God will not have your work made manifest by cowards. You find relief and happiness when you put your full heart into your best work. The things you leave half assed will give you no peace.
Copying anothers greatness only creates a shadow of what you’re actually both capable of. Knowing it’s not fully you, your genius deserts you; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.
Self-Reliance Is Confidence
“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” Accept the gifts you have and the situation you are in. Become your full potential from the natural building blocks you were born and brought up with.
Great people have always done so, and acknowlege the greater collective conciousness that guides them as intuition. They feel that the absolutely trustworthy is seated in their heart and working through their hands. At their very core is it their purpose.
We came from nothing and are now the human race. We must accept that we are the ones to push our evolution forward. It is us advancing on Chaos and the Dark to bring order and light. We are not snivelling children at the feet of a bearded man in the cosmos.
In simple and uncluttered minds we see truth and purpose. Children to brutes know what they want and don’t let calculations of the odds sway their determination. Their mind being whole and their eye is as yet unconquered. When we look in their faces we are unsettled by their single mindedness.
Infancy conforms to nobody; all conform to it. The baby screams for food and you run to feed it. Youth, puberty and adulthood all have their own powers of determination if we will simply stand up for ourselves and use them.
It is the healthy attitude of human nature to act on instinct without bowing or considering another in order to get what we need. Be pure, independent, irresponsible, looking out from your corner on such people and facts as pass by. See the truth. Judge people on their merits, in the swift, as good, bad, interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. Never worry about consequences, about interests. Give an independent, genuine verdict.
A child will stamp its feet and stand its ground. You must figure out how to appease the situation. The child doesn’t care. But adults think too much. Trapped in a jail of their own minds and afraid of what they really feel and think.
Because as soon as an adult acts or speaks out and is noticed for it, they are comitted. Watched with sympathy or hatred by hundreds. Your mind is now divided wondering how your actions affect others.
There is no escape once you act and the desire for your previous neutrality arises.
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of your bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.
Whoever wants to fully realize their true self, must be a nonconformist. It’s up to you to decide what is good and what is not. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
Polonius in Shakespere’s Hamlet said, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. ”
No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it. Carry yourself in the presence of all opposition as if every thing were temporary and of no importance but that you hold true. I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways.
Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it, else it is none. The doctrine of hatred must be preached, as the counteraction of the doctrine of love, when that whines. Darkness prevails in the absence of light.
I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me. Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company. Then again, do not tell me, as a good man did today, of my obligation to put all poor people in good situations. Are they my poor?
I give to such people as belong to me and to whom I belong. There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities; the education at college of fools; the building of meeting-houses to the vain end to which many now stand. Misplaced deeds and responsibility signed off for a dollar.
Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule. There is the man and your virtues. People do what is called a good action, as some piece of courage or charity, much as they would pay a fine in expiation of daily non-appearance on parade. Their works are done as an apology or justification of their living in the world. Their virtues are penances. I do not wish for a pat on the back for good behaviour, but to live NOW.
My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. Make life lean and focused on only the things that are important to you.
Everything you need comes from within. Everything without comes from some sort of servitude. I know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or refrain from those actions which are reckoned excellent. I cannot consent to pay for a privilege where I have intrinsic right. Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.
It is harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. Living in line with the world is easy. So is living in solitude to the beat of your own drum. Greatness is you who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force. It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain things that no longer mean anything to you, then much force is withdrawn from your proper life. Let the world know who you are by doing the work that matters to you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.
All progress depends on the non-conformist.
A man must consider what a blindman’s-buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument. I hear a preacher announce a topic for a sermon and I know the side you will voice. Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can you say a new and spontaneous word? you is pledged not to look but at one side, the permitted side, not as a man, but as a parish minister. you is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation.
Most people have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinion. With no credo of their own, they are never owners of their actions.
Meantime nature is not slow to equip us in the prison-uniform of the party to which we adhere. We come to wear one cut of face and figure, and acquire by degrees the gentlest asinine expression. There is a mortifying experience in particular, which does not fail to wreak itself also in the general history; I mean “the foolish face of praise,” the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest us. The muscles, not spontaneously moved but moved by a low usurping wilfulness, grow tight about the outline of the face with the most disagreeable sensation.
For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. Break the mold and the crowd is promted to scowl or smile based on what the TV tells them. What is accetable at the moment trickles down from the lawmakers.
Their power is in the media. When the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, you need loftiness of spirit enabling you to bear the trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness as if no concern to you.
Self-Reliance Means Strong Enough To Start Fresh
The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts. We continue our dead actions, loath to disappoint them.
But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? Who cares. We learn as we go. The ship changes course to reach its destination.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by lawmakers and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. You may as well concern yourself with your shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.
‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’—Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
Self-Reliance Is Doing What You Judge To Be The Right Thing
We pass for what we are. Character teaches above our wills. People imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every momenet.
Every day will be different for you and your actions will vary. In the end though, a mean average will show. In all the little zigs and zags of your daily actions a lifetime character of who you really are will show. As long as your zigs and zags each be honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now.
Greatness appeals to the future. If I can be firm enough today to do right and scorn eyes, I must have done so much right before as to defend me now. Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances and you always may. The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field, which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. They shed a united light on the advancing actor. You are attended as by a visible escort of angels. It gives the confidance you see in great people. Their stride, unwavering gaze, calm demeanor and oak like stability.
Self-Reliance Is Honor
Honor is venerable to us because it is no ephemera. It is always ancient virtue. We worship it today because it is not of today. We love it and pay it homage because it is not a trap for our love and homage, but is self-dependent, self-derived, and therefore of an old immaculate pedigree, even if shown in a young person.
I hope in these days we have heard the last of conformity and consistency. Let the words be gazetted and ridiculous henceforward. Instead of the gong for dinner, let us hear a whistle from the Spartan fife. Let us never bow and apologize more.
I will stand here for humanity, and though I would make it kind. I would make it true. Let us affront and reprimand the smooth mediocrity and squalid contentment of the times, and hurl in the face of custom and trade and office, the fact which is the upshot of all history, that there is a great responsible Thinker and Actor working wherever a man works.
Ordinarily, every body in society reminds us of somewhat else, or of some other person. Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation. The man must be so much that you must make all circumstances indifferent. Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish your design. Posterity seems to follow your steps as a train of clients. A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire. Christ is born, and millions of minds so grow and cleave to your genius that you is confounded with virtue and the possible of man. An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man. All history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.
Let a man then know your worth. Don’t peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a beggar in the world which exists for you. Your worth is decided by yourself. Your clothes are decided upon by you and not the media or opinion of others.
As great a stake depends on your private act today, as followed their public and renowned steps. When private people shall act with original views, the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of the people.
The world has been instructed by its kings, who have so magnetized the eyes of nations. It has been taught by this colossal symbol the mutual reverence that is due from man to man. The joyful loyalty with which people have everywhere suffered the king, the noble, or the great proprietor to walk among them by a law of your own.
Make your own scale of people and things and reverse theirs, pay for benefits not with money but with honor, and represent the law in your person. The hieroglyphic by which they obscurely signified their consciousness of their own right and comeliness is the right of every man.
The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded? What is the nature and power of that science-baffling star, without parallax, without calculable elements, which shoots a ray of beauty even into trivial and impure actions, if the least mark of independence appear?
The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct. We denote this primary wisdom as Intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions. In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. For the sense of being which in calm hours rises, we know not how, in the soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. We first share the life by which things exist and afterwards see them as appearances in nature and forget that we have shared their cause.
Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom and which cannot be denied without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. If we ask whence this comes, if we seek to pry into the soul that causes, all philosophy is at fault. Its presence or its absence is all we can affirm.
Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of your mind and your involuntary perceptions, and knows that to your involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. You may err in the expression of them, but you know that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed.
My wilful actions and acquisitions are but roving;—the idlest reverie, the faintest native emotion, command my curiosity and respect. People often confuse their personal opinions with their ‘intuitive perceptions’. Intuitive perceptions come from the higher self and are aligned with Truth, but opinions do not.
Most people don’t know how to separate their opinions from their inner truthes
‘Small Self’ people’ believe that they make their own truth, but in reality, there is something that they are unconsciously conforming to. Intuitive perception is the only way to get to Truth. https://prezi.com/mxdg0ncv-kgs/self-reliance/
The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It must be that when your conscious speaks, you should communicate. Not one thing, but all things; should fill the world with your voice; should scatter forth light, nature, time, souls, from the centre of the present thought; and new date and new create the whole. Whenever a mind is simple and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away,—means, teachers, texts, temples fall; it lives now, and absorbs past and future into the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to it,—one as much as another.
Don’t believe it if a man claims to know and speak of God and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fulness and completion? Is the parent better than the child into whom you have cast your ripened being? Why worship the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the soul.
People are timid and apologetic. No longer upright daring not to say ‘I think,’ ‘I am,’ but quotes some saint or sage. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist today. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.
A deer’s nature is satisfied and it satisfies nature in all moments. But man postpones or remembers; you does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround you, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. you cannot be happy and strong until you too live with nature in the present, above time.
This should be plain enough. Yet see what strong intellects dare not yet hear their own internal voice and speak it to the world. We shall not always set so great a price on a few texts, on a few lives like in the religious texts of the world or latest author. We are like children who repeat by rote the sentences of fathers and teachers. If we live truly, we shall see truly. It is as easy for the strong man to be strong, as it is for the weak to be weak. When we have new perception, we shall gladly disburden the memory of its hoarded treasures as old rubbish.
This is the ultimate fact which we so quickly reach on this, as on every topic, the resolution of all into the ever-blessed ONE. The world is impartial. Plant poison or crops and the earth will grow it. Power in nature is the essential measure of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself. The genesis and maturation of a planet, its poise and orbit, the bended tree recovering itself from the strong wind, the vital resources of every animal and vegetable, are demonstrations of the self-sufficing and therefore self-relying soul.
Thus all concentrates: let us not rove; let us sit at home with the cause. Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of people and books and institutions, by a simple declaration of the divine fact.
But now we are a mob. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is your genius admonished to stay at home, to put itself in communication with the internal ocean, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of the urns of other people. We must go alone.
At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say,—’Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power people possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act. “What we love that we have, but by desire we bereave ourselves of the love.”
If we cannot at once rise to the sanctities of obedience and faith, let us at least resist our temptations; let us enter into the state of war and wake Thor and Woden, courage and constancy, in our Saxon breasts. This is to be done in our smooth times by speaking the truth. Check this lying hospitality and lying affection. Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse.
Break from customs and be yourself. Don’t break yourself to fit in a mould not made for you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart appoints.
Does this sound harsh today? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and if we follow the truth it will bring us out safe at last.’—But so may you give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me and do the same thing.
The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild your crimes. But the law of consciousness abides.
And truly it demands something godlike in you who has cast off the common motives of humanity and has ventured to trust yourself for a taskmaster. High be your heart, faithful your will, clear your sight, that you may in good earnest be doctrine, society, law, to yourself, that a simple purpose may be to you as strong as iron necessity is to others!
If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by distinction society, you will see the need of these ethics. The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out, and we are become timorous, desponding whisperers. We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. We want people who shall renovate life and our social state, but we see that most natures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force and do lean and beg day and night continually. Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlor soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born.
If you fail in your first enterprise don’t lose all heart. Some people say if you fail at your first business you’re ruined. Not so. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to your friends and yourself that you’re right in being disheartened and in complaining the rest of your life.
This is a dead end.
Someone who tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always like a cat falls on their feet, is the real winner. You walk abreast with your days and feel no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for you do not postpone your life, but live already. You have not one chance, but a hundred chances.
With the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear. You should be ashamed of our compassion, and that the moment you act from yourself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries and customs out of the window, we pity you no more but thank and revere you.
Regrets are a waste of time. Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will. Regret calamities if you can thereby help the sufferer; if not, attend your own work and already the evil begins to be repaired. Our sympathy is just as base. We come to them who weep foolishly and sit down and cry for company, instead of imparting to them truth and health in rough electric shocks, putting them once more in communication with their own reason. The secret of fortune is joy in our hands.
Welcome evermore to gods and people is the self-helping man. For you all doors are flung wide; you all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire. Our love goes out to you and embraces you because you did not need it.
Learn from a master for a while until it starts to impede your own evolution.
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but your Maker can teach you. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare? Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare.
Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal cyourel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul, all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.
All people plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves.
We have the finest cars but have lost the ability to run fast. It may be a question whether machinery does not encumber; whether we have not lost by refinement some energy. By laws and establishment we lose some forms of vigor and wild virtue.
And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance. People have looked away from themselves and at things so long that they have come to esteem the religious, learned and civil institutions as guards of property, and they deprecate assaults on these, because they feel them to be assaults on property. They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.
It is only as a man puts off all foreign support and stands alone that I see you to be strong and to prevail.
In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.