Monday, November 26, 2007

Emerson Aphorisms

Please cite the aphorism that struck you the most in "Self Reliance". An aphorism is a short statment that expresses wise or clever observations about life. Please elaborate on its meaning and the overall significance and connection to you.
Was there anything you don't agree with regarding Emerson's insights? Explain.

28 comments:

Maryanne E. said...
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Maryanne E. said...

“ There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.”

Just as Emerson emphasizes throughout Self-Reliance, it is important to be true to oneself. I viewed this aphorism to be true to myself. I believe that there is a point in my life when I realized that being jealous of another was not only pointless but shallow, leading to nothing but my own self pity. I can only be myself, and being myself makes me ultimately happy. I don’t overlook attributes I find admirable in others, I think it’s important to have role models, however, there is a difference between admiring someone for what they stand for and envying one for their material projection. I also believe that imitation is suicide. I will not argue that it is a challenge to find oneself in life. A challenge I know that I, and many others, will struggle with for many years. The struggle however, is key to finding myself. I can not expect to know who I am if I focus my life on the views of another. I believe imitation kills who someone truly is simply by smothering their philosophical opinions and views on the beauty of nature. Imagine if Plato believed everything his successor, Socrates, had taught him. the world would miss out on the realm of ideas! Plato, although tutored by Socrates, had radically different ideas, but still, both philosophers were great men. This too goes for Aristotle. Although mentored by Plato, Aristotle made philosophical theories from nature and tangible materials vs. Plato’s view that all materials were an illusion, a hologram from the world of ideas. Yet, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are the three great Greek philosophers, the most recognized individuals from that time. Imitation would have killed their success. I related this to the analogy Emerson made about a ship traveling in a zigzag line. Each philosopher traveled their own ways and no doubly changed direction various times before reaching their theories. This applies to my individual life. If I was to imitate, I would travel in a straight line (more specifically the line of the person I’m imitating) and therefore never form an opinion on what I like and dislike in life, I wouldn’t have experienced anything in a straight line that I wasn’t already expecting. But again as Emerson said, “I suppose no man can violate his nature…” Life is unpredictable, precise imitation is impossible and therefore opportunities to break away from conformity and form an opinion is always accessible.
I disagreed with Emerson’s views on advancement in society. If every step forward resulted in a step back, then explain why society is the way it is today? Emerson says, “He has a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skill to tell the hour by the sun.” Can that same man not learn to tell the hour by the sun if he wishes? Of course he can. Technology may advance but society documents it’s past. If essential to life, or perhaps interest in general, we have the ability to look back and re-learn, without jeopardizing the advancements we, as a society, have recently made. Therefore, society does advance.

Devin E. said...

"I suppose no man can violate his nature.... There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem."

When i read this aphorism, I first thought of all the mistakes that I have made in this world. I then thought that maybe something good happened due to something that was bad. This aphorism has a lot to due with fate, I think. Say slept way too late and I woke up at 7:30 when my class started at 7:21. It is obviously a bad thing. But maybe if I had woken up on time, I would have goten in a car crash on my way to school. You never know. But I agree that "all actions are harmonious, however unlike they seem."

Amy B. said...

“The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”

I chose this aphorism because I think it completely relates with the world today, in particular, the United States. In my opinion, America is becoming a melting pot of cultures. The idea of individualism is not thrived upon anymore. For a teenager, there is one thing that their parents want them to be, a successful student who will move on to receive a four-year degree. For a college graduate, they are expected to go into the real world and work eight-hour days. For adults, they work all day and bring home money to run a family and all the expenses involved with one. If someone is at one of these stages in their life and their heart points them in a different direction, does that mean that they will become unsuccessful or socially unacceptable? I think some people would say yes. Another example is the Colorado Rockies. They had not been to the playoffs in over ten years and all of a sudden they were in the World Series. Before this, Coors Field had several empty seats at a game, but due to the success of the program people conformed to bandwagon Rockies fans because they were doing so well. At the World Series games they were selling tickets that were usually fifty dollars, for three hundred dollars. As a result, Emerson would strongly disagree with the mindset of the United States today due to the conformity factor and the lack of self-reliance,

Parker C said...

“…envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or for worse as his portion…”
“Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this..”
“…truth is handsomer than the affection of love.”
“To be great is to be misunderstood.”
“Your conformity explains nothing.”
“He had not one chance, but a hundred chances.”
“Insist on yourself, never imitate.”
“Every great man is unique.”
“It is only as a man puts off all foreign support and stands alone that I see him to be strong and to prevail.”
“Nothing can bring peace but yourself. Nothing can bring peace but your principles.”
While several of Emerson’s conclusions sung true to me, the quotes above seemed to jump out at me because of their idea portrayal thru simplistic language. Conformity and individual accountability are main themes that are present throughout the quotes above as well as Emerson’s piece in its entirety. I especially find the phrases “envy is ignorance” and “To be great is to be misunderstood” intriguing because they seem to be a play on words. The way the first phrase ties together two negative characteristics to explain an idea makes the reader dive deeper into the underlying meaning. This higher level of thinking holds true to the second phrase as well. However, the stealthy explanation for what makes a person great adds clever curiosity. Furthermore, there are accurate realizations that Emerson draws about Self- Reliance but the details of these conclusions are questionable. For example, the general message of nonconformity that lies in the quotation “imitation is suicide” is one to be embraced. Yet, to be completely without imitation (and thus not suicidal in Emerson’s words) seems quite unreachable. Whether people admit it or not, they are impacted by their surroundings and their ultimate personas are a compiled set of acquired traits and characteristics. Thus imitation on the slightest level is inevitable. Also, the second part of this quotation, “that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion” raises flags. While a person should envelop themselves in who they are, they are not limited to this in the least bit. Rather who they are should embody them to stretch father, reach higher, drive further, and strive to their utmost potential.

NickyM said...

"Your conformity explains nothing."

This aphorism really stuck out to me because it it a great way of saying, if you dress like everyone else, listen to the same music as others, talk and act like everyone else it really dose not show who you really are. If you go along with everyone else or what society thinks you should be doing you never find your true self. Also, because you are conforming to what everyone else is doing, you look and act like everyone else so not only do you not know who you really are but others can not uncover your uniqueness. Diversity and uniqueness is what makes life interesting and this quote really expresses that when someone conforms to what others do it shows nothing but the unwillingness to be who you really are.

Stacey B. said...

"your conformity explains nothing"

This was an aphorism in the "Self Reliance" that really stuck with me because it says that if you act like everyone else around you then your aren't showing your true self. You end up not having your own opinions and start caring about what other people think. I feel like people should not change who they are in order to make someone like them, or be like everyone else. We have the right to express ourselves and be who we are and I think we should take advantage of it. There are some places theat don't allow the people to speak of express who they are so why should we throw away such a great freedom. Being yourself allows people to see the real you. If you conform to what other people do then you lose your self reliance.

Austin F. said...

"The other terror that scares us from selftrust 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, and we are loth to disappoint them."

This aphorism stuck out to me because it focused on how much emphasis we put on what others think of us and how we appear to others. I feel like this is totally true and applys to everyday life today. Your success isn't measured by you; it is measured by others and how they percieve you. You can't become the President of The United States based on what you feel is self success or be promoted at your job if you think you are successful; you are given these things by others who deem your success great enough to achieve this status. Your opinion doesn't matter when it comes to whether you are successful or not. We are also afraid of how others view us. We focus on first impressions and making good appearances because if we don't then others will remember us they way we were when we met or made a bad impression.

AmyL said...

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but your own principles.”

Though many of his aphorisms were very meaningful this one stuck out the most. I think in the society we live in we like to have other people or other things make peace for us in our lives. We have been given role models or counselors to help us make peace but in the end it is up to us.

A little before this statement he says “ A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick or the return of you absent friend, or some other favorable event raises your spirits and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it.” I thought this was a very interesting way to put it. We feel as if everything good is coming together because others are doing great as well. This is very important but until we find peace for ourselves using our own principles we cannot find peacefulness. I agreed with much of what he said however a lot of it was about us as individual people doing everything completely alone. When it comes to my religion I am taught that we are to do everything with God and have him help us find peace. Therefore we are not completely alone in a sense. That does not change the fact that I do agree with his aphorism that nothing can bring peace but ourselves.

kelseyh said...

"The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs."

This aphorism relates a lot to me and people today and our society. It is saying that most people want to live my traditional values and do what everyone else does and only do what they are told. They do not want to step outside of the box and be their own person, be independent. Self-reliance is disliked and hated because it is not conformity. People do not like realities and creators because they are not customs and original.
People do not really consider the idea of being an individual these days because of the way our society has developed. Everything revolves around everything else; the government, money, people. There are expectations for everyone no matter the age. It is like our lives are set out and thought of before we even have a chance to live them and discover ourselves and what we want in life. People need to learn to take chances and become independent and stop relying on everything else to succeed in life.

Hailey M said...

“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.”

While many may have picked aphorisms that they agreed with, I picked this one for the exact opposite reason. It struck me, partially because a large section of Self-Reliance was devoted to it, but mainly because this is the concept I have the hardest time accepting. Emerson continually insists that your values and beliefs are more important than anyone else’s. He leaves no room for error or acceptance of one’s own mistakes. The attitude I interpreted appeared to have a conceited mentality, if not arrogant personality. I think that people should certainly stand up for what they believe in and remain true to themselves, but everyone should remain open for improvement and change. It is true that everyone holds truth in their beliefs, but we also all hold some false, and it is necessary to continually search and learn to discover more about the world everyday.
Emerson goes so far as to say that good and bad are decisions for individuals. However, I believe that there is a set good and bad, despite the difficultly most have deciphering it.

katie s. said...

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.”


I imitate other people to make fun of them or to get a laugh or too but when people do imitate to a certain point it seems that they are not being themselves anymore.
Then it feels like there is two of the same person, so one of them should just be gone.
I am a person that will envy things that I really want or that someone else has. I know that envying is not something that is a good thing, but I just cannot help it. There are some people that don't know that envy is something bad and some times steal things that they get too envious about.

katie s. said...

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.”


I imitate other people to make fun of them or to get a laugh or too but when people do imitate to a certain point it seems that they are not being themselves anymore.
Then it feels like there is two of the same person, so one of them should just be gone.
I am a person that will envy things that I really want or that someone else has. I know that envying is not something that is a good thing, but I just cannot help it. There are some people that don't know that envy is something bad and some times steal things that they get too envious about.

JakeF said...

"what i must do is all that conerns me, not what the people think"

This aphorism struck me pretty vividly. Although i dont practice this my self i agree with it a full 100%. In our world today there are loads of sucesful people. There may be sucesful people with the same professional category but they them selves are not similar to each other. The only way they are similar to each other is the fact that they are all sucesful. They dont follow the crowd and fall to peer pressure. If they did they would not be sucesful becuase they would follow unefficient leaders. They strive to be different, better, and to progress.
Marylin Mansen for example deffinalty doesnt care what anyone else thinks about him. But yet he is a sucess. This is just proof that if you strive to do it your own way you can do great things.

N-Earley said...
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N-Earley said...

"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..."

This aphorism is explaining that there is no universal good or bad, right or wrong, that each person has their own scale. This struck me because I feel that there truly is no right or wrong to an extent. I believe that you are entitled to do what you want with your life and that there shouldnt be a set of guidlines that says weather your choices were good or bad. To each their own standards. Also, the way that a person is raised may affect their perception of right or worng, good or bad, but people shouldn't be judged by others or told weather their perceptions are correct. One man's good is another man's bad. One man's wrong is another man's right.

Rick M. said...

The aphorism that struck me the most is:

"An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man."

It could be restated by saying an institution is always founded by one man, then perpetuated by others, but by calling it the "lengthened shadow of one man" provides the reader with a good mental image. A shadow is something that always follows a man, so it is appropriate to use it when describing something he has done. Thinking of an institution as a shadow also states that it is visible by others, and it is an accomplishment you can take credit for.

An aphorism like this gives me motivation to try to establish something that people will be able to admire during my lifetime.

For the most part, I agreed with Emerson, I just found it hard to understand at times.

Rachel_F said...

“…truth is handsomer than the affection of love.”

Emerson seemed to think a lot about how life works. All the pieces in it. Everything that we hold dear in our lives and what really should hold dear. Love is something that most consider something that is a HUGE part of life. The affection of love is showing that we care.Truth is the sometimes harsh reality. Although for me to know that you are loved and that the person cares enough to not let you be lead on by false actions or by soft spoken words.

Sophie M said...

The aphorism that struck me the most in "Self Reliance" is located in the 9th paragraph. Emerson says, "It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." This quote struck me because I think Emerson is telling a very important lesson here, he is saying yes it is easy to follow like sheep and never question the world around you, just let the world mold you and use you as they please, but he states that it takes a great man to go against the current and be himself. He even says with perfecr sweetness, to me this is saying not only is he so bold to do such a thing but he also is not out bragging about it, but to himself he knows he is different. The connection I made with this quote is that I feel as though sometimes I would much rahter just give up and go with eveyone around me is doing, but I know I don't want to be doing those things. I want to be me and be loved for who I am as a person, I think standing by your beliefs is one of the most honorable things a person can do. I don't really disagree with any of Emerson's quotes but I find some of them a little "holier-than-tho" not in a religous way but in a sence that we are only human and we constanly make misstakes.

kirstie a. said...

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide.”

It is very hard in today’s society to be true to ones self. There seems to be a constant murmuring voice in the back of everyone’s head. It tells us how to dress, what to eat, who to talk to, and even how to think. The voice is that of the media, friends, and family. At some point, I think, that finally a person learns to block out that voice and tune in to there own thoughts and opinions of the world. This is the “education” Emerson is talking about. Life is easy and simple once the voices can be tuned out but until then life isn’t so easy. People are taught to imitate only what they know and never to question it. When Emerson says, “imitation is suicide” he means that when people conform or imitate they lose them selves and are no longer a individual human, but rather a copy of a false ideal. Emerson’s insights were very thought provoking and surprisingly were all true, at least in my eyes.

LouiseT said...

The aphorism that struck me the most from Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” was: "To be great is to be misunderstood."

It took me awhile to figure this aphorism out but as I thought deeply towards it’s meaning it clicked and I agree with its content. To me Emerson is saying, don’t think when you speak, and instead just speak whatever is on your own mind. Exclaim what you’re thinking no matter how unclear or complicated it comes out; No one needs to understand your mind and your thinking as long as you personally do to better your own self. If you don’t develop your own thinking your soul will decease and the spirit will not develop. The most important critic is you. This also is a strong point as Emerson then goes on to list geniuses from the past that all have succeeded, even as the community in which they prospered misunderstood their thinking. All of their intentions and souls were unique.
There are some things in this reading however, that I do not agree with. On the back of the first page near the bottom Emerson states, “Then again, do not tell me as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to put all men in good situations. Are they my poor?” To me, this statement is very self-centered portraying no generosity what so ever. I believe that helping people in need, in return, is beneficial not only to them but to you as well; It strengths your heart which then strengthens your dignity.

Kyle M. said...

“To be great is to be misunderstood.”

This is a really good aphorism in the fact that it is one of the truest statements i have ever herd. Throughout history you have people such as Einstien and Boyle that were called crackpots for the shear fact that they were misunderstood. Nobody could understand what there theories ment. As it turns out most of there theories were correct. So i really do agree with Emerson. You do have to be misunderstood to be great.

“Nothing can bring peace but yourself. Nothing can bring peace but your principles.”

This statement is one that i really do not agree with. I think that other people can make you happy too. If not then why do human being seek partners. If this were true then i think that we would have no such thing as marriage. So I would cahnge it to:

“Nothing can bring peace but yourself and the people around you. Nothing can bring you inner peace but your principles.”

KyleL said...

“…envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or for worse as his portion…”
This quote really stuck out to me for many reasons. Not so much because it relates to me per say, but I think that it relates to society as a whole. My favorite part is “envy is ignorance.” I like this part because it’s not as simple as the rest, it makes the reader kind of think about what it means and then when he figures it out it makes him examine his life. This part is saying it is ignorant be jealous of someone else because they should be happy with what they have, and if they do this they will be happier because of it. “Imitation is suicide” is another good part because it is very true in a metaphorical sense. Although you will literally not die through imitation you will never truly live because you are never really being yourself. Finally “that he must take himself for better of for worse as his portion” this part just kind of hits it home because it is saying that in life one has to make a decision, to like himself for who he is or to try to be something he is not. In conclusion I liked this statement because I hate how society tries to imitate itself to be like the people who are “cool” or “famous” and I think this statement really drills those who do that.

alejandro.d said...

"The other terror that scares us from selftrust 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, and we are loth to disappoint them."


This alphorism struck me the most because i agree with it. Opinions are't really important in this situation. Everyone is concered on how they are viewed when first met and want to make a good impression on themselves. They want to be accepted by everyone they meet so they try to do the same activities as them. This relates to people not having enough confidence to being themselves and try to act to be someone they are not.

Patrick.R. said...

"Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other."

In this quote, Emerson is saying that as we learn a new skill in our society, we lose a skill that we once had. He uses the example "The civilized man had built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet." This is just saying about how like when develop a new technology or machine to do work, we lose the skill of doing that job.

This aphorism stood out to me the most because it was the one that made me think about it's meaning. I always thought that some of society stayed with us as we grew, but now this quote helped me understand. It's an aphorism that makes you think and really dig deep to find its meaning and I liked that.

Molly F said...

The aphorism that struck me the most in “Self Reliance” was “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.” This aphorism stood out the most to me because I feel like I have heard it said so many times but this time it carries a different meaning. It is saying to be independent and not let others tell you how you should or should not be and further more what you should and should not do. If you feel strongly about something, than that is all that should matter. Sometimes it is hard to not hear the voices of those around you, telling you how to think and act. However if you do not let them falter your own thoughts and ideas, things will turn out better in the end for you because you are doing what you believe is to be rite. For instance say I would like to go to a different college that is not of my parents favorite choices, than I should be able to make that decision or at least be given the choice, and if given the choice I should pick the one I believe best fits my needs because it will help me in the end.

Nick D. said...

"The voyage of the best ship is a zig-zag line of a hundred tracks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency."

In this quote, I feel Emerson is trying to state that nobody is perfect and things in life don't come easy. People must fail to succeed, or learn from their mistakes. The more mistakes aren't neccisaraly better but the more mistakes a person has had, the more wiser and knowing they will be as they are now or when they are elders."Learn from your mistakes" my dad always says to me, and I dislike it a lot but it is true and I agree that the more mistakes I have the more I will learn for the future. I learn from my mistakes everyday. Emerson expresses that making mistakes is what will make a persons future. When Emerson states, "... and it straightens itself to the average tendency.", he is suggesting that even though somebody my have had a poor childhood or early adulthood that they still can learn from the situation and fix the problems. He is also saying that EVERYONE makes mistakes and it is just a normal act in a society. I do agree with Emerson that it is acceptable for people to make mistakes and that nobody is perfect but what I do disagree with is that fact that someone can make a mistake and live one without it affecting them in the future. I think that forgiveness can be given to only a certain extent, for example, murder, I would say, can't be forgave. But on the other hand, having a bad grade in a class which gets you grounded for a few days and it takes getting your cell phone taken away to make you realize that you made a mistake. This is a type of mistake that can be forgiven in the society.

Whitney S. said...

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