Emerson’s Quote: Nothing is at Last Sacred But the Integrity of Your Own Mind
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In his Self-Reliance essay, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. This quote shows that the only thing that keeps a man from reaching his potential is the strength of his mind. Emerson believes that to find integrity is the absolute goal of human existence. The dictionary gives this definition of integrity, Integrity: Something undivided; an integral whole. The condition of having no part or element taken away; soundness Self-integrity, in this sense, is being in possession of ones own undivided body, mind, and emotions. Emerson believed that the feeble minded were destined to suffer unless they could train their mind to become one. Human beings have minds that are separated from its companion, emotion, an abstract element. However the actual body is concrete and is used in terms of non-thinking or non-feeling of the human mind. To Emerson, finding the integrity of ones own mind can be a life long journey that can only be discovered through truthfully searching within one’s self.
Emerson also could have meant to alter the meaning of sacredness, which is only in the integrity of ones own mind. Emerson believed that churches and other organizations were labeled as dead institutions and thus to deny the concept of sacredness is to condemn all organized religions. No religion can exist without some form of sacredness. Emerson designated that something sacred or holy is to deprive people of their right to experience each thing for what it is, to appreciate its full value, and not for what it is said to be. When nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind, all values, principles, and morals strip down to ones very inner core and then will have themselves to blame or praise. I believe this is the truth that Emerson was searching for when he was trying to find his own integrity.
On a personal level, I believe that although one may let others influence his ideas (human nature), it is ultimately his own doings that will manifest his destiny. There is a reason why mankind was given conscience. As humans, we are the only species that can make our own choices, establish what is right and wrong, and use reasoning to get ourselves out of situations. The choices that people make always have an outcome or consequence. If I decide not to study for an English test, it is certain that I will receive a low grade on it. On the other hand, if I CHOOSE to study for my English test, then I will probably get a grade I deserve. Although there are other influences such as distractions, to prevent me from studying, it is ultimately my own choice whether I study or not which leads to a good grade or a bad one. People should not let other people influence decision making. The choices that I make create my own future, if I let my decisions fall into the hand of someone else, then my future is not mine anymore.
However, if I did let my choices and decisions be determined by someone else, then I must be trapped in some kind of system. People would be tools of a large society and nobody would have a mind for themselves. To realize and accept that nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind, shows that although ones physical, concrete being is still in within the system, the mind and soul or spirit of one is free from the prison. This concept is exemplified in the book 1984 where the protagonist is under a system where even the mind can be controlled. Although it is in an extreme setting, theoretically, the world today is not much different than it is in the novel. Billions of people are trapped inside some kind of system: they wake up, go to work, return home, sleep, and start the cycle over again.
This majority must play by these rules in order to put food on the table and support themselves and their family. Even I live in a similar system; I wake up, go to school, return home, sleep, and start the cycle again. However, if everyone was a tool in this grand scheme, then no one would have to worry about anything. But everyone has some kind of integrity. If my mind was created for the purpose of just eat, sleep, and work, then I would be no better off than a robot. To be able to realize that ones integrity is the only sacred thing, then he is free from the system. Anyone has the potential to free their mind and thus have a higher understanding of truth, however this journey, as Emerson believes, can take a lifetime and is only achieved by means of searching within ones self.
Although the journey to finding self integrity is long, I believe that some people falsify themselves in their life. In my opinion, this is especially true for people who go to church. I can resonate with Emerson to an extent that when people pray in church and talk to god and believe that god is listening to their prayers, they are in reality, talking to them. I have many friends who are Christian and many times have they asked me to come to church with them. I believe that the church is yet another system which people follow for their own reasons. However, the idea is still the same: pray to god, and he will listen to you; believe in Jesus and he will guide you closer to god. Although it is a system, this organization is a system to trap the mind. If one constantly prays to god and talks to him about his troubles hoping god will give him an answer, then the choice and decision making is ultimately decided by god. Emerson believed that everyone has a god within themselves. I believe that this god that is within everyone is essentially their own sacred integrity. I believe that when one talks to god, they are only fooling themselves and in reality are talking to their integrity and asking themselves how to get out of sticky situations. All in all, Emersons quote is another brilliant way of saying, believe in yourself.
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