Worried about the world? - Self-Reliance, Non-Conformity and leaving the ‘Experts’ behind us.

Ne te quaesiveris extra – ‘Do not seek outside yourself’ in other words, ‘Look within’

Nobody needs reminding that these are trying times.  Many people feel like ‘rabbits in headlights’ not entirely sure about what to do next.  Some of the current stress emanates from the United States of America and so we look to the States for some solace.

What would the renowned American thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson say?

Emerson, (born in Boston 1803) spent a life-time writing and lecturing. One of his most interesting works is known simply as ‘Self-Reliance’.  It could’ve been written about today, when many people have resigned from the job of working-out solutions for themselves in favour of waiting for the next instruction from one of the endless ‘experts’ that fill our column inches and airwaves. Constantly waiting for instruction renders people powerless. 

Emerson was a transcendental philosopher, a movement developed in the USA out of Romanticism, Unitarianism, and German Idealism in the 1820s and 1830s. He felt that the influence of organised society(s) and governance had destroyed the original strength of the individual; and that people would be stronger and feel empowered if they were ‘self-reliant’ and they thought independently.  He believed that individually we should trust ‘subjective intuition’ over ‘objective empiricism’.   That is, people should be encouraged to act intuitively and with original insight without the need to consider what has gone before or what experts extol and importantly without seeking the approval of their peers.  These original responses to situations allow for new development and progressive change, as opposed to repeating the same actions and possible mistakes.  Original thought should strengthen our resolve to question the agenda and intent of those purporting to lead us.

Non-conformism – this isn’t a cry for revolution but a reminder to act independently and not to feel threatened when people don’t agree or approve.  Sadly so much modern reasoning/thinking is done via mediums that seek approval or comment.  When you act, it must not matter if people don’t like your ideas, your hair cut, or your new car.  What matters is that you have expressed yourself, your personality is acknowledged and that you’re happy with your free choices (as well as your hair and car).  Trying to live your life in the wake of the approval of others is time-consuming, constraining and unpleasant. Similarly, expressing yourself only by agreeing (and liking) other people’s statements does not constitute having your own independent thought.

Lemmings live in a world of conformity and consistency and that can end badly.  Greater strength lies in exploring new paths to success and relying less on what you thought you knew.  

To take back personal power and stop the corrosive effects of global bad news detrimentally affecting you, Emerson would say we need to take responsibility for making our own immediate worlds better.   Sign petitions, share internet content but remember that taking control of your world and relying on yourself means not waiting for others to sort things out and not just following where others lead.    

Put simply, if you want a beautiful garden – then you need to get on and plant yourself some flowers.

By Anna Atkinson

published March 2017