Suicide Without Death

Although I can never imagine myself committing suicide, I had a rude awakening when preparing to teach Ralph Waldo Emerson to a high school American literature class and reading about what Emerson considered “suicide.” Emerson was a transcendentalist and was in the same genre as Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Melville. He was widely admired and is still known for many of his axioms which have become imbued in the American ideology. He and Thoreau were close friends and once, when Thoreau was in jail for civil disobedience, Emerson visited him and broached the following question to his friend, “Why are you in jail?” Thoreau’s reply, “Why aren’t you?” The quote from Emerson that caused me to do some self-examination was “Imitation is suicide.” During my youth, I had a bad inferiority complex, which I blame on no one other than myself. However, I envied many of my peers and especially those in the public eye who had managed to become either heroes or stars. I was from a little nowhere town in South Carolina and didn’t particularly like my looks. How often I must have said, “I wish I were as smart as or looked like so-and-so.” According to Emerson, I was “committing suicide.” It was true. It was only when I could accept myself as the one and only “me” that I began to become a real person. Thank you, Mr. Emerson, for helping me become myself, thus preventing my “suicide.”

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About bobosbest

I am a 79-year-old retired English teacher whose writing goals are fulfilled by publishing these blogs. I have a wonderful married partner, Dimitris Tsitsiras, who is from Greece. Life is good and still an adventure.
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