Haze First Covers the Sky
February 24–28, Amherst, MA USA
Seasonal Memoir #59
Have you noticed that this generation is obsessed with … no, not phones, that’s obvious … hydration. Seemingly every adolescent and college student has a sustainable designer flask in hand. Don’t get me wrong, staying hydrated is indeed important–four out of five dentists say to drink 8 cups of water a day (no, not really) — but doesn’t this phenomenon say something quite different, especially since so many of these same kids eat so poorly? It has me a little concerned for them. Are they that compliant or that influenced by society? Is it a herd mentality driving the hyper-hydrating behavior? Youth. Please! Civilly disobey. Stop drinking all that water. Your very health may be at stake.
To believe your own thought, to believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men–that is genius.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this in 1841 in the essay Self-Reliance. I’m still on a RWE kick (and David Henry Thoreau for that matter). Though clearly brilliant, it was somewhat grounding to read that Emerson was sexist (his views on what women were capable of), and he was indifferent to Boston’s abolitionist movement in the early to mid-eighteenth century (only his wife was able to spur him into solidarity) — so he was not perfect by any means.
Emerson pushed back against blindly-accepted dogma of all sorts, even though he was a celebrated product of Unitarianism. Elevating this mindset may be his greatest contribution to history, with enormous applications nearly 200 years later.
His endearing lesson for us is to find truths in everyday life, rather than through dogma or grace. And even if we have formed our perspective through organized religion, or secular education, or through our parents, then it’s essential that we question these “truths”, and test them in everyday life, to see if they hold up to nature. Adopting somebody else’s wisdom, untested, puts one at risk of losing free will, and then we’re in a self-imposed prison.