I read this entry in Emerson’s journal when I was 21.
Journal, March 29, 1832
I will not live out of me.
I will not see with others’ eyes.
My good is good, my evil ill.
I would be free— I cannot be
While I take things as others please to rate them.
I dare attempt to lay out my own road.
That which myself delights in shall be Good
That which I do not want— indifferent
That which I hate is Bad. That’s flat.
Henceforth, please God, forever I forego
The yoke of men’s opinions. I will be
Lighthearted as a bird & live with God.
I decided to live like that. Not praising what I don’t like. Not pretending to like it. Not making small talk that bores me. Not smiling at what I don’t consider funny. Being myself
And it proved harder than I imagined, especially—oddly–when it came to writing.
Thomas Merton observes,
“Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their lives.
They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint.
They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavour to write somebody else’s poems or possess someone else’s spirituality.”
There can be an intense egoism in following everybody else. People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular—and too lazy to think of anything better.
Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success and they are in such haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves.