The pure idea in your mind
"Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit."
From The American Scholar (1837) by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Why can’t it be that easy? I’ve been trying and trying for years, and I’ve just never found it that simple. Transcendentalism was a mainstay of the many philosophies I was raised with. I believe, or at least want to believe in this. You need to conceptualize yourself as an idealized individual based on your own terms and then unceasingly strive to achieve that state of being. Then, if enough people are doing this, it reaches a critical mass, thus birthing a broader social revolution. Right?
Yet, despite attempting to achieve this for most of my conscious life, now as an adult I feel further away from my goals than I ever have before. The older I get the less I know. This week I realized that even though I’ve learned important lessons from most of the many mistakes I have made, I am hardly enacting any of these seeming pearls of wisdom. Moreover, in all the many variables of adulthood I feel I may have lost my “pure idea” of myself. I love this quote on a very deep level. I know I say I love a lot of things rather impulsively, but this I mean much more seriously. Still, all my love is not quite enough to get over the fact that it seems very impractical when I attempt to apply it to my life.
My world no matter how isolated I make it will always exist as a bubble in the real world, and will have to be permeable enough to allow basic sustenance in, like food and shelter. That means there are certain limitations to my world, if I don’t want to die young, alone, homeless, and starving. I’d love to build my own world. It would be full of laughter, community, adventure, and music. But, my dream world rarely accounts for a source of food, or the handling of disputes, and generally we live in tree houses, because it’s always sunny and warm. How can you possibly reconcile such a world with the real world, which it must overlap, as that is where we actually live?
And, what if I don’t know what I want? What if I don’t know what I value anymore? What if I have decided that morality, or at the very least ethicality, is relative to the point of being moot? What if I want to destroy something beautiful? What if I don’t know who I am? Right now I do not feel at all equipped to form a “pure idea” of myself in my mind, let alone nurture it to a greater fruition of itself. In college I frequently felt trapped, unable to escape the mainstreaming process of an educational institution that would produce me as a functional member of society regardless of my personal feelings or opinions on the matter. I hungrily looked forward to the day that I would graduate, and be free to make the multitude of decisions that would allow me to become the independent adult I had always envisioned. When that day finally came, somehow I was not ready. I was hit full-force with a tidal wave of possibilities, choices, and paths that has left me still reeling.
I’m still optimistic for a massive shift in the society, culture, mindset, and behavior of our country sometime before I die. When it comes, I hope I can participate in it. Actually, I would give just about anything to be involved in it. Unfortunately, if Emerson is right, I need to conform to my “pure idea” before I can be part of the “influx of the spirit” that will correspond with the revolution. This deeply perturbs my psyche. I can’t have an impact on the world until I know who I want to be, and attempt to realize that ideal. I am incomplete and ineffective, and I’m not quite sure how to fix that. I am disconnected, and lack the ability to reconcile my ideals and reality. It’s rending my heart and soul.
Is this symptomatic of my generation, or am just wallowing in introspection?