I've been feeling a little bit stumped when it comes to blogging lately. Maybe because I'm closing in on the 200th post (something really exciting planned for that, by the way!) Anyhow, the other day, Mom handed me an old notepaper with this poem scrawled on it...
by William Henry Channing
To live content with small means. To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion. To be worthy not respectable, and wealthy not rich. To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars, birds, babes, and sages with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.
Isn't that a lovely and profound passage? It warms my heart to read those reassuring lines about simple living. Once I reached the end of the poem, I realized that I hadn't heard of the author before. So that quickly sent me to the interwebs to search...
Who was William Henry Channing?
Turns out Channing was a Unitarian clergyman in the early 1800s. He was active in the women's rights movement at the time, influencing women leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. William Henry Channing was also a Transcendentalist (I was absurdly excited to learn this, as Transcendentalism was one of my favorite lessons in a high school American History. More about that below...)
What is Transcendentalism?
Transcendentalism resulted from the liberalizing of strict Puritan theology. It disregarded the theory of John Locke (a notable Enlightenment philosopher) that knowledge is obtained through the senses. Transcendentalists rather believed that truth "transcends" the senses and cannot be found by observation alone. They also believed it important to seek one's inner light and form a connections with the "Oversoul" (God). Though hard to define, transcendentalism does have a few concrete values, such as a strong sense of individualism. Self-culture, self-reliance and self-discipline were all esteemed in this philosophical movement. Such focus on the individual led to dislike of authority, and ultimately, non-conformism. (Picture Thoreau trekking off into the woods to live in solitude, as he did in Walden.)
More Wise Words
Here are a few favorite quotes by other Transcendentalist thinkers, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be." ~Emerson
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Thoreau
Thank you for stopping by,