To transcend involves reaching ahead of what can be expressed in words or understood in logical or rational thinking to seek the dawning of our existence.
Transcend is the heart of the term “transcendentalism.” German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, was first to use the phrase “transcendentalism.” Kant used the phrase to show how “spiritual knowledge” is limited because, as humans, we can understand only what we are capable of perceiving. If we cannot perceive something, it simply does not exist. Writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson, were three of the most influential Transcendental writers. They shared the belief that knowledge comes through intuition and imagination, not through logic or the senses.
They believed people should embrace nature’s beauty and discover how nature and art can work to answer life’s complex questions. Transcendentalists believed that society corrupts you. Transcendental attitudes can be seen in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Emily Dickinson. Ralph Waldo Emerson is considered to be the center of the American Transcendental movement. Emerson’s famous essay, “Nature,” was published in 1836. Emerson writes “Nature” to show a point of view that nature gives a human so much more than science and logic do. Emerson writes that if one were to ask a question about one’s life, he should look around, and he shall find the answer.
Emerson points out that nature can be used to unlock mysteries of the universe. Emerson writes, “Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink the wild air.” Emerson is trying to propose that we go out into nature, leave behind all preoccupying activities as well as society, and just exist.
An average human being lives 28,000 days. 4,000 of those days spent at school, and 8 years spent in a car. Emerson’s writing makes humans think about how many of those days do we actually spend enjoying nature? How many of those days do we live in the sunshine? Swim in the sea? Or drink the wild air? Time spent taking in nature’s beauty is emphasized as more important than what to wear a certain day, in Emerson’s essay “Nature.” The most interesting Transcendentalist was Henry David Thoreau. His famous work, “Waldon,” is Thoreau’s attempt to live life at its most simple.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life… when I came to die, discover I had not lived.” Thoreau demonstrates that living in the woods will bring him not only closer to living a fuller life, but also a life with more purpose and solitude. He sustains himself for two years living in a cabin he built: eating vegetables he grew and sold for profit. When he leaves Walden Pond, he is satisfied that he has proven people can live in nature simply without all the distracting modern amenities