Weekly Writing Challenge: Discovering It’s OK to Think for Myself

Once upon a time I had a foot-shaped mouth, and though I have learned to filter my brain at times (my husband would argue), there have been the frequent occasion where random/offensive thoughts fly out unattended by whatever’s inside my head. Pair that with feeling free to think differently than whoever’s in charge or popular and I found early on that if I wanted friends, I better shut the heck up.

And growing up I always felt that dichotomy–express yourself vs. social life.

Then came junior English and Mrs. S (you know who you are!). I suffered bravely through early American literature where I had soared through the previous two years. I just didn’t get Irving or any of those early writers and I was not terribly shocked when the first semester ended with a C (though making a C in any English class was hard to swallow).

But then came Transcendentalism and it rocked my world.

courtesy of the Quote Factory

I fell in love with Ralph Waldo Emerson. I had found my Waldo and he understood all the frustration from not speaking my mind for years. I felt so free after reading Self-Reliance, as if a great burden had been lifted from my soul. Somebody, at some point, got me. It made me deliriously happy to know that I wasn’t alone.

“Trust thyself” allowed me to no longer be dependent on other’s opinions of my life or my ideas, but I could allow myself to express freely all that I had previously held back in public.

Ralph more than pulled the duct tape off my mouth, he made it ok for me to think outside the box. Ralph provided the inspiration for me to put my words down, not the words required of me, but what I really wanted to say into a physical format. He got me to realize that my thoughts were a part of me that I could accept, regardless of outside expectations.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.”

Dang it, that’s freaking happened to me! All the time, even on WordPress. Apparently, I still haven’t gotten this part right, yet. Just 15 more years down the line and I still can’t get hold of the advice written more than 150 years ago. Eh, I’ve still got time. Luckily, I have plenty flashing across my mind. They’re a lot like flies, developing like little maggots, stinking up my head. Then they’re buzzing around in there somewhere. I need to develop a substance in my brain to make them stick before they fly away and die. 😦

For me, to follow one’s heart, we must also brave enough to also journey down one of Waldo’s most wistful of quotes. It’s one to live up to, to yearn for, and (in my opinion) one to die trying to achieve.

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion;

it is easy in solitude to live after our own;

but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd

keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

But here I am, violating his direction by focusing on his sage advice. And it’s hard to create something full of wisdom and observation when it feels like everything that could be said, has been already.

So I will leave you with this nugget (and may I do Waldo happy) :

I’ve heard that hope is powerful concept. Even in Shawshank Redemption, Red says that “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things”. Hope was the only thing left in Pandora’s box after all the devastation, war, and disease had plagued mankind. Yet hope is dependent on a person looking for things to improve, it’s a part of a person’s character and shows more optimism than anything concrete. Hope’s allure is in the abstract and it’s far more like a balloon that a child has accidentally released. They continue to look up at it, almost imagining that it will come back to them. What could possibly be more powerful? Yet hope doesn’t actively cause change, people are either hopeful or hopeless.

A more complicated, yet fascinating force lies when our fate is controlled by another, and they purposefully choose forgiveness. Much more real, to forgive releases consequence from those who are deserving. It is a power of choice, and most undoubtedly, a power taken for granted in today’s society by all involved. Frequently, the multitude views forgiveness in a flippant manner, dismissing it as an easy task for a trivial wrong. In its truest sense, forgiveness requires a burden or a debt to be owed. Imagine the murder victim’s family as they address the accused/convicted of the crime. What is the weight of forgiveness in that moment? To truly forgive is not to take justice lightly, rather, it is the ability to see another person humanely and not defining them solely on the evil committed.

And so, hope, while it is to be aspired to, is singular to a person. Forgiveness, then, is divine in that to forgive, a person must look outside their own prejudices to see others as they were created.

May Waldo be proud. Go Waldo!

Waldo, courtesy of Chill Mama

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