Many people believe that humans differ from animals and that we are actually greater than Nature. Transcendentalism teaches us differently. Transcendentalism is “an idealistic philosophical and social movement… [which] taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity,” according to the Oxford dictionary.
The introduction of transcendentalism in the 19th century shifted America’s consciousness. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are just a few of the many writers that, as transcendentalists, portrayed Nature in an exceptional way for their time. Thoreau’s essay “Walking” shows how he has mastered the compassion of solitude. As I read his work, I imagined him walking for hours and hours with no intentions of going back, avoiding the actuality that “half the walk is but retracing our steps.”
I can connect Thoreau’s mystical experiences to how I feel when I walk around New York City: a place that does not contain “wilderness.” NYC is a place that has a population of 8,244,910 as of July 2011, according to the U.S Census Bureau. I do not have the luxury of walking for hours into the wild, but I always feel a sense of wilderness wherever I am. I love seeing our animalistic mannerisms, even in such urbanized areas as NYC.
When I am surrounded with people, I may not be alone in the woods, like Thoreau describes in “Walking,” but I can still find cosmic peace. I feel completely fulfilled by being around people that have various personalities and are also part of Nature.
Recognizing oneself where you are, as you are, is what makes you who you are. This is how you discover your identity. When you feel better about yourself, you feel better in yourself; you begin to have a better sense of your individuality while also taking care of your mind, body and soul.
Henry David Thoreau says in his essay that he cannot preserve his health and spirits unless he spends at least four hours a day sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.
You can bring these practices indoors by filling your house with lively things, like plants! They can help remind you that you are part of a living community. You can access the power of your own ability to heal inside and out. The earth is here to love you. Once you recognize this and make it a daily practice, then you can find a truly happy place in which you not only feel more like yourself, but you can heal yourself. Live as a transcendentalist: where you are, as you are. You are your wilderness.