Transendentalism through Franklin Emerson and Thor Essay

This essay has a total of 1909 words and 8 pages.

Transendentalism through Franklin Emerson and Thoreau

Daniel Higgins September13, 2000
ENG 252 – Paper 1

Transcending Life by Adapting the Concepts of Franklin, Emerson, and Thoreau

Everyone one of us struggles daily to survive in a manner befitting our individual
beliefs, hopes, aspirations, dreams, and goals. There is not a universal code on how
exactly we should go about doing this. Benjamin Franklin, Henry Thoreau, and Waldo
Emerson were some of the most unique thinkers influencing the way of thinking in America.
Their concepts where simplistic in nature, with underlying themes based on
Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism is defined as an individual “transcending” their
senses and gaining a better understanding of beauty, good, and truth through activities
such as work, art, and being at one with nature. A course in “life” should enable an
individual to maintain individuality while at the same time contributing to the good of
the whole. Applying many concepts on life adapted by Franklin, Thoreau, and Emerson will
allow an individual to reach their potential to live the best life they possibly can.

"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of"
(Franklin). Benjamin Franklin had many simple concepts that he lived by, but what made
him so unique was that the application of all these concepts made him a very virtuous and
honest man. He was a moral perfectionist, evident by his tedious struggle to live by
thirteen virtues which he deemed to be the most important in benefiting himself and
society. These virtues were temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry,
sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. “My
intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues” (Franklin). Franklin was
realistic in his quest for moral perfection, apparent by the fact that he began
concentrating on one virtue at a time: “And like him who, having a garden to weed, does
not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his
strength…” (Franklin). Taking a lesson from Franklin in evaluating our own lives, we
should realize that we are human and have many limitations and faults.

Synonymous to Franklin’s quest for moral perfection, was his appreciation for hard work.
"God helps them that help themselves." "Haste makes waste." (Franklin). It is obvious
that Franklin’s background instilled in him a determination to better himself and rise
above the social class in which he was born into. Franklin achieved the majority of his
success through hard work, and this made him a firm believer in doing for self and not
relying on others. "Never leave that till to-morrow which you can do to-day" (Franklin).
Franklin understood that every day was an opportunity that should not be squandered, but
taken advantage of in every way possible. Clearly Franklin’s anit-procrastinatic
standpoint is one that can be employed in our own lives with more frequency.

Like Franklin, Emerson maintained that morals are a valuable commodity to live by. Emerson
believed that right and wrong, and moral truths are made clear to us through everything
around us. “The moral law lies at the center of nature and radiates to the circumference.
It is the pith and marrow of every substance, every relation, and every process”
(Emerson). Each individual is influenced in different ways by the moral influence of
nature. There is no formula to measure the amount of influence that an individual
receives from nature, but we should all allow ourselves to accept what nature has to teach
us. We should not get so wrapped up in our everyday lives that we are blind to what
messages are made clear in all things around us. In essence, we should be a “receiver,”
always available to decode messages interpreted through our spirituality. In order to do
this; we must eliminate the “noise” of our everyday lives so that in turn we will receive
a clear signal of what is truly important from nature.

Nature, as Emerson believed, was the source of God’s law’s. Nature is also the source of
beauty, truth, and wisdom. "I am not solitary whilst I read or write, though nobody is
with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from
those heavenly worlds, will separate him and vulgar things" (Emerson). Emerson was
ordained a Unitarian minister in 1829, but he experienced a religious crisis after the
death of his wife from tuberculosis. In 1832, he became friends with Carlyle, Coleridge,
and Wordsworth, and began to formulate his transcendental faith. Like Emerson, many of us
do not question our existence or place in “nature” until something traumatic happens in
our lives. It could be the death of a loved one, or a religious experience. Emerson
believes that nature should be explored constantly to search for truths, it should be a
part of our everyday existence.

"Between man and vegetable. I am not alone and not unacknowledged" (Emerson). Emerson
believed that we are all connected universally, man vs. man, and man vs. nature. We as
humans need to respect the intricate inter-workings of nature, and how this process allows
us to survive on this planet. “More servants wait on man than he’ll take notice of”
(Emerson). Our daily tasks occupy us emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically
to the point where we take for granted everything around us. We need to separate
ourselves from the daily distractions that plague our life, and become “in tune” with
nature. Only through this process can we see more clearly the universal truths evident in
our lives. “The spark of divinity lies within man; that everything in the world is a
microcosm of existence; that the individual soul is identical to the world soul, or
Over-Soul” (Emerson).

Nature does not simply give man the resources with which to make a living, but also gives
man the knowledge to convert these resources into needed materials. “A man is fed, not
that he may be fed, but that he may work” (Emerson). Emerson had the beliefs that man has
adapted to his environment only because nature has made that possible. Humans are shown
the path to evolve through natural processes that occur in nature. We watch the animals
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