I decided to read “Self-Reliance” before continuing with Escape from Freedom. EfF reminded me of S-R or vice versa (though my friend scoffs at the idea).
I was rather surprised by S-R. It was about how each person should seek his own personal, internal truth because that is the truth Nature has given. While “God” was used quite often, the term was used in the same sense as Fromm has used it–a non-entity that has more of a psychological basis than a tangible or spiritual basis. The core idea was that being true to oneself was the most important truth in life. This was based on the idea that all of nature helps itself. Therefore the core truth of nature was dependence on oneself. That is the manifestation of “God”, the clearest iteration of “Nature.” However, that is very contradictory to the Judeo-Christian God, who did not create people as a means of “helping” himself.
Another big concept was that greatness comes from self-reliance (knowing and pursuing one’s truth)–that all the great people in history (Jesus included) were great because they did not conform to the wants and demands of society.
I had loved and found true some of S-R in high school. Emerson’s truth is very inconsistent feeling. I feel as if I would need to read many of his essays in order to understand the foundational beliefs touched on in S-R.
From this essay alone, I can say that I think moments of his essay are brilliant while others laud egotism and selfishness. Humans do not exist alone. We simply don’t. From the moment our existence begins–whenever that is–we are in profound interaction with another person. Being true to oneself is good, but living as if one is an utter individual is not. That is not reality. So, as usual, I would recommend this essay and ask that you read it carefully. It seems like strength and bravery to live truly to oneself. But much of that alienates others and oneself. No, I am not recommending living a lie to not be cast out. I believe there is a way to live truly to oneself that works in conjunction with others instead of in isolation.