A 4th of July Remembrance: Independence Arises from Self-Reliance, by Charles Hugh Smith

Rugged individualism, the making of one’s own way, psychological self-sufficiency, used to be the bedrock of the American character. Now the whole concept of individualism has been perverted into a demand for others’ attention and support. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Individualism, it seems, means not the making of one’s own way but the demanding of sacrifices by others to maintain one’s own lifestyle.
What is visible on July 4th is the overwhelming consumerism of an American holiday: the over-hyped sales campaigns, the over-indulgences of the table, and the obligatory displays of fireworks. But beneath this celebratory surface run questions about American identity and the state of grace of the American soul.
There is a darkness in that soul, the poisonous darkness of greed, complacency and hubris. Individualism, it seems, means not the making of one’s own way but the demanding of sacrifices by others to maintain one’s own lifestyle: the sacrifices laid on the next generations to pay our lavish medical and retirement benefits, and the sacrificing of the planet to supply us with cheap energy, particle-board furniture and all the other gimcracks which are piled up in countless garages and storage facilities across the overstuffed suburbs of America.
There is another American soul, a largely forgotten one; that of Emerson, Thoreau and Muir. Emerson’s essay Self-Reliance speaks to a radical individualism: “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”
His vision has been reduced to a callow “do your own thing,” but his individualism is not the type trumpeted by consumerism, of dependence on the state and all the ills of self-absorption. It is both spiritual (Emerson was a Harvard-trained minister, after all) and a state of being.
“Man is not a farmer, a professor or an engineer, but he is all.” To be fluid, capable of metamorphosis, and true to oneself was not an abstract ideal to study in a classroom but a way of living: “We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.”
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One response to “A 4th of July Remembrance: Independence Arises from Self-Reliance, by Charles Hugh Smith

  1. Reblogged this on The way I see things … and commented:
    A justly famous Emerson quote speaks to the core of self-reliance and the agency of true independence: “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

    Like

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