I read Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" during the return flight from my New Warrior Training Adventure staffing. The essay reinforces many of the principles I revisited during the weekend, which resonate with me deeply -- such as the inherent integrity of each man's mind (and soul) and the dangers of conformity and blindly adhering to creeds and other classifications -- but it also raises some issues with which I do not feel deep resonance -- such as the primacy of constancy over consistency or coherence and the foolishness of philanthropy. I agree with Emerson's entreaties to trust my self, speak my truth, do my work, and not be subservient to the approval or disapproval of others. However, I judge that Emerson is taking independence to the extreme, discouraging sympathy, charity and an openness to others' perspectives. While I want to achieve greater independence of thought and action, I want to do so within a community of others, and find an appropriate balance between independence and interdependence, between serving my self and serving others, between being true to myself and enjoying meaningful relationships with others.
Among the terms I find particularly appealing are alienated majesty (hearing others speak truths we ourselves had earlier discovered, but rejected), the vigor of wild virtue (uncivilized, spontaneous, instinctual aboriginal strength) and the corpse of memory (our concern with being consistent, lest we violate expectations and disappoint others). I'll include a number of longer passages I found particularly provocative below.