Tips From Emerson: The Key to Happiness

In the fall of 2010, I attained my bachelor’s degree in English Literature, where I found a love for American, classical, and romantic literature. Specifically, I delved into the writings of Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and the rest of the lost generation, along with Homer and Sappho, and perhaps most influential, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Did you know that Emerson was only 14-years-old when he attended Harvard Divinity College in Cambridge Massachusetts, known today as Harvard University?

It’s true! At 14 he enrolled in Harvard College with a full scholarship and won a handful of prizes for his writing. When he was 17, he started to keep a journal and continued it for over half a century.

Emerson (1803-1882) was known to be one of the most thought-provoking American cultural leaders of the mid-19th century. He is my favorite philosophical spearhead known to lead the transcendentalist movement in which he spoke out against materialism, formal religion and slavery. Stating that each individual was put on this earth for a reason. Emerson believed in the integrity of the individual. “Trust thyself,” he urged. “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”

I’ve made so many mistakes throughout my life based on not “trusting myself,” especially in my younger years. Whether it was not following a negative intuition I had about a friend, or not listening to the bad feeling I had about being somewhere I knew I shouldn’t be. Not trusting myself, nor following my instincts had led me into some trouble in the past, which ultimately steered me in the direction of writing the story of my life, The Pace of Nature. Thankfully, learning the hard way more than once has taught me the importance of “trusting thyself,” listening to my inner voice, and more importantly, making my own path, on my terms, which I’ve kind of always done anyway, now I just do so from a much wiser perspective.

Emerson believes that if we were to listen to our inner voice, and have the courage to speak up with our own thoughts and beliefs, in a reasonable manner of course, then it meant we would know what it means to live our lives to our fullest potential. Like Emerson, I believe each one of us is put on this earth for a reason. That we all contain a greatness within ourselves, and it is up to each one of us to discover and indulge in our unique potential. And, if we listen to our instincts, trust in ourselves, and have the courage to be our own individual, our eyes will open to the possibility of happiness, peace and pleasure. We will then have the power to live our life the way you want to.  

Emerson says, “that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear.” He also 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 is in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”  

Whether prose or verse, Emerson was a poet with a lyricist’s gift of metaphor. Both his lectures and his published works are immersed with wisdom and beautifully portrayed telling phrases.

America grieved Emerson’s passing, as did much of the rest of the Western civilization. He was one of the wisest, sincerest men of all times. He had shown his country the possibilities of the human spirit, and he had done so through the example of morality and humility. The Chicago Tribune said this of Emerson’s passing: “How rare he was; how original in thought; how true in character!” Such a soul shall forever be celebrated.