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Transcendentalism defines true human condition; in general and especially in pandemic
Written by Chaewon Park | Published. 2021.11.04 14:47 | Count : 266


Transcendentalism is an ideological reform movement based on Idealistic ideology. The tenet of transcendentalism had arisen greatly among many people in the 19th century. One of them was Henry David Thoreau, and his books  influenced other advocates of transcendentalism greatly . 


[A portrait of Henry David Thoreau, Picryl]

In his book, Walden, Thoreau describes his life in the small wooden cabin which is located in the middle of the woods. He insists on transcendentalism by directly experiencing the essence of life, which is; Thoreau believes human life, especially in the urban center, is not everything but there is an afterworld existing. Because Thoreau was a faithful theologian, he conveyed that if people freed their minds and accepted the nature or principle of life, they can get to the transcendent stage of the world, heaven. Then all of these ideas made me question-  what does Thoreau show us about the truth of the human condition in order to achieve the transcendent stage? Is it better to be oneself or meet the expectations of others?


[Site of Thoreau’s hut, Lake Waldon, New York Public Library]

For instance, Thoreau states that humans need to “spend one day as deliberately as Nature” and  “rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation” (Thoreau Walden 5). He also argues that people living in modern society need to empty their minds and halt the obsession toward perfection toward both career and life in general. Thoreau insists people should slow down and enjoy the moment in nature in order to get to the transcendent life: “Let us not be upset and overwhelmed…” (5). Likewise, Thoreau believes basic factors of life —including a place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat— are enough for humans to carry on their daily life . Simplicity  is the best way to live the current lives and prepare  for a transcendent stage. Thus, it is not necessary to live a rapid and busy life without any break to breathe in the fresh air, just in order to live a more sophisticated and so-called splendid life. This means that people are not needed to neglect their lives` needs to shift their value system to prepare for the next stage of life. In other words, one of the human conditions in Thoreau’s perspective is that living our current lives with basics, with less greed and perfectionism in order to prepare for the next transcendent stage of life—heaven. 


To answer the question—“Is it better to be yourself or meet the expectations of others?”—in the perspective of Thoreau, the answer would be “no”. Since Thoreau consistently asserts that life is just a preparatory stage for the next life in heaven, people just need to spend time to develop their egos and unite with nature by admiring it. One of his arguments shows that humans are built to live with only fundamental factors by nature but without unnecessary competition or intense-rapid life according to Thoreau’s strong belief. Thus, there is no need to follow others or try hard to meet their expectations.


Then, in the regard of current society where the Covid-19 pandemic has dominated, how does transcendentalism work? Although the number of cases of COVID are increasing globally, many people still go on international trips just for the purpose of leisure and travel . Most people do notice the significance of staying in their own home in order to prevent the expansion of covid cases. However, some still travel around  domestic locations instead of international places. Unfortunately, all of the travels in general still contribute to the increase of infection cases greatly. By traveling, people increase the chances of spreading the virus. The contact with other individuals exposes people to a great danger of Covid. As a consequence, the confirmed cases of covid in Korea only had reached 2,425 on 6th of October and this is a great increase compared to the initial stage of pandemic  (https://search.naver.com/search.naver?where=nexearch&sm=top_hty&fbm=0&ie=utf8&query=%ED%99%95%EC%A7%84%EC%9E%90). On the other hand, what if people gave up their greed of going to travel at that moment and concentrated on their current problems in front of them? Then, the contacts among each individual will be decreased significantly and would not come to be such a catastrophic situation.



Chaewon Park

Grade 11

Idyllwild Arts Academy

Chaewon Park  hsr@dherald.com

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기사 댓글 1
  • Xiu 2021-11-04 15:21:43

    interesting analogy and great job connecting the literature with the the current demographic of pandemic. Nature is definitely worth a read !!   삭제

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