When I first read the essay Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson I was consumed by it. I made a sheet with my favorite excerpts and kept it by my desk. I believe I may have also made copies of it and shared with friends. Recently I began re-reading it and I discovered that it still speaks to my soul, perhaps more so now that I have some life experience.
The concept I am pondering the most right now is what constitutes goodness. Emerson talks about false piety… people who make pronouncements within their faith but then live in contradiction to said pronouncements. He called out charities that purport to uplift the poor in foreign lands while here at home in America, slavery is the law of the land. Why travel and look outward when there is injustice and cruelty to be rectified right in front of us?
He also urges us to consider WHY we are pursuing charity. Is it to feel better about ourselves? Are we doing it to avoid our own work and calling? As a person who historically has struggled with boundaries, this resonates.
The easy thing in the world is to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is she/he/they who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson Self Reliance
I’m grateful for the words and the teachings.