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Tali Champney

One With Yourself and the World


In his essay Self Reliance, author Ralph Emerson uses the metaphor imitation is
suicide to challenge the conformity that is becoming prominent in society. Emerson
believes that people have become too reliant on others in making decision and are losing
their individuality, especially in their religious beliefs. He does not like how people are
relying on the churchs teaching to find their sense of spirituality instead of exploring their
minds to find what they truly believe. In his mind, not exercising the self-reliance given to
them by God hinders the overall experience of life, and is as bad as committing suicide. By
using this metaphor, Emerson is attempting to connect with people on a personal level. He
knows that the majority of people wish to have a good, fulfilling life; a life full of spirit and
rich with the love that comes with being one with their religion. He is expressing that if
everyone continues to blindly follow the church doctrine, they will never be able to get the
full experience out of life.
Additionally, Emerson uses the metaphor envy is ignorance to express that
jealously is a wasted emotion. Emerson does not approve of societys focus on what other
people have. He stresses that people should be focused on their own lives, not on others
achievements and possessions. In this metaphor, Emerson is confronting a major social
norm in society. Almost everyone is envious of another other person or something that
someone else has. He, however, believes that envy results in wasting time that could be
used to improve ones life to worry about something that cannot be changed in that
moment. By saying that envy is the same thing as ignorance, he is implying that society as a
whole is ignorant for feeling this emotion.
Another transcendentalist who uses metaphors to express his arguments is poet
Walt Whitman. In his Poem Song of Myself, Whitman uses the metaphor [grass] is the
handkerchief of the Lord to provide evidence of Gods existence. In Whitmans time,
people are beginning to question whether or not there is a god as they are becoming more
concerned with material objects they can physically see. Whitman does not want people to
lose their religious beliefs due to this new focus on technology and industry, so he
challenges their uncertainty by using a concrete example to prove Gods existence. He uses
the grass as a metaphor to Gods handkerchief in order to link Gods existence with
something that they see in everyday life, making questioning impossible. He knows that
people overlook the grass because it is something that is present in almost all places. By
linking the grass to God, he is setting a reminder that God has made his mark on the world
and is always present, even if one cannot physically see him.
Whitman also uses grass to represent the equality of all people through his
metaphor, grass is a uniform hieroglyphic. The people in Whitmans time tend to
consider certain races and types of people to be of a higher class than others. In his
metaphor, Whitman challenges this idea through examining the grasss universal growth.
His metaphor provides proof that it is impossible for certain people to be predestined to be
better than others. If the grass grows in all places around the world, it proves that every
person in the world must be considered equal in nature. If this were not the case, grass
would only grow in specific areas surrounding the gender, race, or type of person that it
prefers. His metaphor proves the equality of all people by including the inarguable proof of
natures consistency in his point.
In modern times, the pressure being put on children to strive for academic
perfection has reached an extreme level. Kids are thinking about colleges as early as
elementary school and are already worrying about whether or not they are capable of
getting in. This obsession has not stemmed from the kids minds, however. The parents of
young boys and girls all across America begin to implement this idea into their childrens
minds, instilling an unhealthy obsession with perfection in them and causing them
unnecessary stress.
On the parents side of the argument, pushing their children to get straight As from
an early age gives them a good work ethic and makes them more likely to succeed. They
believe that if they let their kids set standards for themselves in school, they will not do as
well as they are capable of doing. Additionally, they do not want their children to be
unprepared for when they graduate from lower and middle school into the more
academically demanding life of high school. They feel that it is their job to prepare them for
their future by setting high standards for them in school from an extremely early age.
From students perspectives, however, this pressure to be perfect does more harm
than good. Students these days are robots; they are programmed by their parents to follow
a specific set of commands to a T, not able to power down until they have completed that
task to perfection. Their social lives, sleep schedule, and even proper nutrition come in
second to their schoolwork. It is true that students should be focused on their education,
but it is just as important for them to be able to form proper social skills and the ability to
prioritize their own lives if they want to succeed in the real world. These skills can only be
learned through experience, not by countless hours of studying. Parents may think that
they are doing what is necessary to properly prepare their kids for the world, but in reality,
they are creating young adults who do not know how to do anything but work themselves
into the ground.