Self-Demise (Theme on Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”)

Our devices will lead to our demise. We check our notifications while walking down the hallway, scroll through Instagram at the dinner table, and binge Netflix before falling asleep on the couch. Our mindless consumption of information takes the place of forming our own opinions. Thinking takes effort; unfortunately, modern conveniences allow us to easily distract ourselves instead. Emerson writes, “Man is timid and apologetic.” We are too scared to leave our comfort zone; instead, we are comfortable with being lazy. This mindset weakens our minds — we are easily swayed into believing someone because we have not formed our own beliefs. Without the roots needed to support ourselves, our minds topple with a blow of the wind. Emerson writes, “[Man] is no longer upright…He is ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose.” We are so weak that we cannot defend ourselves against offensive opinions. We fear offending someone with our opinions because we ourselves are afraid of being offended. Our fear keeps us from expressing our opinions, and eventually we stop trying to form them. When we do speak up, according to Emerson, “[Man] dares not say, ‘I think’, ‘I am’ but quotes some saint or sage.” The weight of their authority gives us leverage to lean against because we cannot support our opinion ourselves—or worse, we don’t have an opinion. 

For humanity to advance, we must free ourselves from our digital chains. We must discipline ourselves to control our distractions. And we must think critically about our environment to develop our own beliefs. Only then can we progress towards a better life, a better society, and a better world.