What is important about the verses written by the painter at the beginning of "Self-Reliance"?

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The first sentence of "Self-Reliance" by Emerson serves to initiate the theme of being true to one's self through originality and unconventionality. The painter has written verses to this effect. Within this same paragraph, Emerson goes on to expand on this idea. He suggests that we need to look within ourselves, to "believe your own thought," if we are to truly find the spark of genius within ourselves. Emerson cautions us not to look towards bards or sages for answers to life's questions, but to look within, for each of us has the ability to formulate original thinking and ideas. He also tells us not to ignore our own ideas, for it is within our own mind that brilliance can be found. Lastly, he warns us to believe in our own thoughts, or tomorrow we may hear ideas echoed by a stranger. Thus, the painter's verses support Emerson's ideals.

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What is important about the verses written by the painter is that they were original and unconventional. This first sentence thus helps capture a theme of this essay: that the self-reliant individual has a unique destiny planned for it by God that will show itself in the original and unconventional path this person follows. To be self-reliant is not so much to be self-supporting or self-sufficient or to refuse any help as it is to discern and be true to one's own call. It means rejecting such conventions as what your church denomination might call you to if these norms violate your soul. Instead, to fully find your true self, you need to examine your own conscience and your own heart. "Imitation is suicide," Emerson insists, and a person will not find true peace or contentment until he thrusts aside what the world has decided  is good for him and followed his own path. 

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