• Flux Magazine

How College Students are Embracing Transcendentalist Themes by Emma Landry

Updated: Aug 6, 2019


   Everything that goes out of style tends to make its way back around to the spotlight. Vintage has started to become the new modern, many people are starting to prefer the sound of vinyl again, and “mom jeans” are all the rage. The younger generations have started to embrace the past, but this runs much deeper than fashion trends and music. We have started to embrace nature, seek knowledge in new ways, oppose social conformity, and push back against materialism. We have started to search for the self in ways that date back to the 1830s and adapt a transcendentalist’s state of mind.


    Transcendentalism is the idea that knowledge comes not from objects, but how we know objects. It opposes rigid rationalism, highly formalized religion, social conformity, materialism, and commercialism. It affirms confidence in the validity of knowledge that is grounded in human consciousness and intuition. It affirms the tendency to accept contradictions. It stresses self-trust, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency. These ideas are starting to make the greatest appearance they have since the 1960s. America’s young adults have unknowingly started to follow the words of Emerson and Thoreau.


    Around the country, the roots of a new type of hippie generation have been emerging. This is a generation that exudes individuality and uniqueness. We have learned not to be afraid of our differences, but to celebrate them. We are learning to accept each individual as they are with open arms, instead of trying to convince the less “traditional” members of our society that they need to adapt to the majority. That is not to say that there is no more progress to be made, but there have been steps toward a more accepting future.


    These more accepting individuals have started to learn that material things will not fulfill them. There has been an influx of young adults turning to experiences rather than physical objects. Music festivals, camping, and other outdoor adventures have become more popular than they have been in recent years because the upcoming generations are looking for a different kind of connection; a deeper connection with the self and with nature, while also allowing for stronger and less superficial relationships with those around.


    The mental health transparency effort is proof alone of transcendentalist thought to pop back up in our daily lives. Taking care of the self is one of the pillars of transcendentalist ideas, and with the push to take action and get mental health support shows that the younger generations are seeing that self-sufficiency is the way to sustainability- another area of transcendentalist ideas seeping through into daily life in an effort to be environmentally conscious.  


     The rising up of transcendentalist themes in our upcoming generations shows just how much our society is changing. We are starting to notice the changes we need to make and what will make everyone happier as individuals instead of trying to conform to unrealistic standards. We are learning that we need to love and take care of our environment instead of fighting against this planet that has given us so much. We are going back to our roots and helping ourselves along the way.

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