OWL Magazine Korea

“Stand alone at the center of the world” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a figure classified as a philosopher, poet, essayist, and transcendentalist in 19th-century America, was born in Boston, USA in 1803 and entered Harvard University at the age of 14.

Emerson introduced the philosophy of “Transcendentalism,” which was a unique idea distinct from European philosophies. Emerson’s ideas are credited with assisting America in achieving intellectual independence from Europe. The main characteristics of transcendentalism are as follows:

  • Human beings are inherently good but can be corrupted by society and institutions.
  • Insight and experience are more important than logic.
  • Spiritual experiences can be obtained by individuals rather than through organized religion.
  • Nature is beautiful and should be respected in itself.

Emerson wrote various works, and his book “Self-Reliance” has been translated into several versions in Korea. I have encountered two translated versions, one titled “Stand alone at the center of the world” and the other titled “Confidence.”

“Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance”

Emerson is known for writing various essays, and “Self-Reliance” is not an essay he wrote directly but a compilation of his lecture contents. However, the author claims to have written all the texts before delivering the lectures. In other words, it is appropriate to consider this essay as something Emerson wrote directly.

The book containing the essays is titled “Self-Reliance,” which can be translated into Korean as “자신감” or “자기 의존.” Ultimately, the concept revolves around not relying on others and reflecting on oneself.

Even “Barack Obama,” who served as President of the United States, once mentioned in an interview that this book was the second most influential book for him after the Bible.

“A book containing various essays that evoke empathy”

The book contains various essays that evoke empathy. In overall context, it can be said to convey the message of “not dwelling on the past but striving for the future while doing one’s best in the present.” It emphasizes not imitating others but believing in oneself and pursuing one’s own thoughts.

“Society never advances.”

Emerson also conveys an interesting perspective, suggesting that society never advances. It is more about change than progress. In English, it is expressed as:

“Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. Its progress is only apparent like the workers of a treadmill.”

The argument is that as humanity gains something, it loses something else. For example, with the invention of clocks, humanity forgot how to tell time based on the sun’s position. Society gains new technology but loses old instincts.

“Emerson’s book unfolds the story around the theme of self-reliance”

“Self-reliance” ultimately refers to believing in oneself and confidently pursuing the future. As society becomes more advanced and competitive, people tend to lose confidence. This book serves as a necessary read for those who have lost confidence in modern society, ending with Emerson’s final message.

  • “Will you still gamble with the goddess of luck?
  • Will you win or lose everything as she spins the wheel of fortune?
  • Break up with her, as victories gained from her are unjust.
  • Instead, engage in the game with the supreme judge of God, ‘Cause and Effect.’
  • Work and obtain according to that ‘will,’ and you will have firmly planted your stake on the wheel of fortune, and henceforth, you can watch it turn without fear.
  • Only you can bring peace to yourself.
  • And only the triumph of principles can bring peace to you.”

“Stand alone at the center of the world (Self-Reliance)”

  • Author: Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Publication Date: April 28, 2016
  • ISBN13: 9788992969499
  • Yes24: http://app.ac/vj6wEka43