Considered by many to be the definitive statement of Ralph Waldo Emerson's concept of individualism, as well as a magnificient example of his beautiful prose and introspective thought. Here are some points that are considered classic examples of Emerson's Transcendental thoughts;
- Envy is ignorance.
- Imitation is suicide
- A man is relieved and gay [happy] when he has put his heart into his work and done his best
- Trust thyself: Every heart vibrates to that iron string.
- Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.
- Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today
- Virtues are, in the popular estimate, rather the exception than the rule
- What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think
- 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.
- To be great is to be misunderstood
Clearly, the theme of Emerson's Self-Reliance is that every person must be a thinking individual and a non-conformist, unafraid to speak the truth without fear of the judgement of "society" and the opinions of others. People must be stalwart in living according to the higher principles of life. As Emerson points out, great men are always misunderstood; he cites as examples Pythagoras, Socrates, Jesus, Luther, Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. Indeed, modern man would do well to heed the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and to live by his principles.