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A Transcendental Scrapbook Wiki
A Transcendental Scrapbook Wiki
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Transcendentalism in Art
Transcendentalism in Fiction
Transcendentalism in Film
Transcendentalism in Music
Transcendentalism in News & Politics
Transcendentalism in Poetry
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Transcendentalism in Music
The Simon & Garfunkel song
"A Hazy Shade of Winter"
clearly demonstrates Transcendentalist ideas about nature. The lyrics of the song echo Ralph Waldo Emerson's observation that "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit." The lyrics focus on the somber aspect of winter, with the speaker asking the listener to "look around" and see that the "leaves are brown now/and the sky/is a hazy shade of winter." You can listen to the song here:
08 Hazy Shade Of Winter.m4a
. Hey, I really like this song.
by James Taylor has definite roots in Transcendental ideas. In the song, the man just walks and walks through nature, not talking to anyone. This is similiar to ideas presented by Ralph Waldo Emerson such as the idea that society does not really have anything good in store for individuals and it's best to maintain a degree of seperation, such as the walking man does but just walking and not talking to anyone. He also "doesn't know anything at all", just as one of the main principles of Transcendentalism is not to assume you know anything and not to believe everything you think you know. Also, there is a nearly direct tie between Henry David Thoreau and Taylor's lyrics. The walking man is always, "moving in quiet desparation", trapped in his silent, constant forward motion. This is just as Thoreau puts it as he states that, "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desparation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation". The walking man has nothing to do but resign to his walking. Another connection to transcendentalism is the descriptions of nature in the song, such as "the leaves have come to turning", "the goose has gone to fly", and "the frost is on the pumpkin". These descriptions all fit in with the season of autumn, which goes along with the later stage of life in which you grow old and start to think about death just as the walking man is "kissing his existance goodnight" and "he's always missing". This fits in with Emerson's idea that "nature always wears the colors of the spirit".
This might be one of the more obvious connections and somewhat overdone, but I still think it's important that Disney gets its fair representation. The song "
Colors of the Wind
" is of course one of the top of my list. It goes along with the transcendentalist idea that land has beauty that isn't exactly 'ownable'. "The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim" is rejected by Pocahontas, just as Emerson defends the mystical properties of Nature that can't be purchased. Theres a certain "spirit" to nature in general that give it stronger impression. "You can own the Earth and still all you'll own is Earth until you can paint with all the colors of the wind" exemplifies the process the poet goes through to really 'have' the land. Similarly, "Come roll in all the riches all around you and for once never wonder what they're worth" relates to the idea of a farmer seeing his land only for the withered apples (vs. a poetic approach).
Inversely however, another area of the song defies the transcendentalist idea that is pointed out earlier here. As Mr. Kurtz said above, Emerson advocated a sense of separation from society. Pocahontas actually supports getting to know others or to "walk the footsteps of a stranger". She insists that "we are all connected to each other", not separated. This isn't an exact contrast, as in the case of the song it has a more natural connection, which is advocated by transcendentalists. Because the song is also dealing with mixing cultures, however, it brings in a human society that doesn't go along the same lines.
And who doesn't want to listen to Disney songs?
Nas's song I Can is all ey dabout self reliance and believing in yourself. By working hard and believing in yourself you can be what ever you want. It shows gives a positive message to kids telling them that thon't need to grow up to be gangstas. You can grow up in a life away from drugs and sex. By believing in yourself and working hard you can be what ever you want, and you dont have to be what the media says you should be. Heres a link to a youtube page with his music video for the song
"I can feel you all around me Thickening the air I'm breathing Holding on to what I'm feeling Savoring this heart that's healing" these lyrics from Flyleafs song "All Around Me" illustrate the transcendentalism idea that God is all around, not just in a church. Another belief of transcendentalists is that the individual is responsible for their relationship with the divine, a feeling that is shown in many Flyleaf songs. Infact almost every song by Flyleaf talks about a personal relationship with God, but does not mention common religious ideas such as the church or the Bible.
Waiting on the World to Change
, by John Mayer exibits views opposite of transcendentalism. He explains that the individual has no real importance in the world and cannot make a difference, a view opposing the transcendentalist views of Thoreau and Emerson who believe that the individual is very important to the world. According to John Mayer the only way to make a difference is by "Waiting on the World to Change." He says, " Now
if we had the power
/ To bring our neighbors home from war/ They would have never missed a Christmas/ No more ribbons on their door." This state that we, the common people, do not have any power and our opinions do not matter and the only thing we can do is wait for everyone else to make a difference. The individual has no real power. " It's not that we don't care,/ We just know that the fight ain't fair," is another example of how Mr. Mayer believes the individual cannot make a difference. These multiple views of John Mayer clearly oppose the transcendentalist views of Emerson.
- You Tube
The song Rite of Spring [
] by Angels and Airwaves is an upsetting song to say the least. In the first verse, Tom DeLonge (the songwriter) writes of his past. He grew up with an adulterous father, got expelled from school at sixteen, and had anything but a happy childhood. However, the chorus sheds some light on the true meaning of the song. Tom writes, “If I had a chance for another try, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s made me all of who I am inside. And if I could thank God that I am here and that I am alive. And every day I wake, I tell myself a little harmless lie: the whole wide world is mine.” By this he means that yes, he had a crappy childhood, but he would never regret anything. Every bad experience he had shaped him into who he is today. He thanks God for getting him as far as he has come in the world, and each day he wakes up he tells himself that he can do anything. He can become anything, and even if “the whole wide world” is not his, he finds no harm in telling himself that he can achieve any goal. Without belief in your abilities, you go nowhere. Emerson would agree. Believing in oneself is the first step to achieving the divine and being one with nature. Tom started at the bottom. His life was going nowhere, but he promised his mother that things would change. He believed that he could change the course of his life by becoming a rock star. Because he believed in himself and his abilities, he was able to reach that goal. He turned his life around and is now very successful. He got somewhere because he believed in himself and followed his instincts to start a punk-rock band, possibly the fastest decision he ever made, but the most important one of his life. And now? He says that he wouldn’t change anything that has happened to him, even if he could. He accepts the path that God has led him on. Yoda would be proud. [For the full lyrics,
The chorus of "Kaye" by Jupiter Sunrise shows the Transcendentalist idea of self-reliace. The persona in the song relates how "out there in the world I am full of their hate, their crime," the crimes of people in general, while "under a killler blue sky" it's like the persona and the girl adressed in the song, Kaye, "can be light and pure of heart." The persona seems to place distrust in other men, and early in the song, rather than asking Kaye to say something that makes sense, he asks her to "say something I can feel," which shows the Transcendentalist's moving away from reason and logic. Nature, as in the rest of the record, seems to be the perfect backdrop to understanding and love.
One song that comes to mind that contradicts all theorys on transcendentalism is Madonna's Material Girl. The first phrase in the song is
"Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think theyre o.k.
If they dont give me proper credit
I just walk away"
and it continues on about how money makes her happy which is completly opposite the the transcendental theory that nature and yourself should be making you happy. Also the song Popular from the musical Wicked talks about how Glinda is going to make her friend popular. She does this by giving her a makeover and making her pretty. But in a trascendental society being popular wouldn't matter because you yourself determine your happiness and not what other people think.
Waste of Paint
by Bright Eyes demonstrates a view different from Emerson's transcendentalism. Oberst, the songwriter, cannot connect with God even in a cathedral. "But when I lift my voice up now to reach them./ The range is too high,/ way up in heaven./ So I hold my tongue,/ forget the song,/ tie my she/ start walking off./ And try to just keep moving on,/ with my broken heart/ and absent God..." He cannot reach the spirit that Emerson would say is always with us and surrounds us. Although Oberst differs from this one aspect of transcendentalism, he shows examples of self reliance. His view of his friend's work contrasted sharply from that of his friend's. As he expressed his approval of the composition, his friend just shot back that Oberst's flattery doesn't impress him and that he, himself is only a waste of life. Yet the woman in the next stanza relies upon her husband. When he cheats on her, the once dignified woman calls life a lie and once again goes on to waste away. Because she believes that her husband thinks so little of her, she lives after his opinion of her and wastes the rest of her life. Emerson would say that she is taking the easy way out and living after the world's opinion instead keeping "with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude." YouTube
"Colossal" by Wolfmother shows what Transcendentalism is by describing the "Mother nature's child" that the main voice of the song, who feels disconnected with nature, is in love with. The song opens up with the persona singing about the "colossal landscape, of which [he'd] never been apart," which contrasts the transcendentalist view of harmony with nature; however, he does have a respect for the wild as he describes the 'pillars of life' fading away from 'glowing mountains,' translated as humanity and life pales in comparison to the majesty of nature. He seem almost sad and regretful that he cannot feel a bond with nature, as evinced by his relationship to "colossal girl." The persona comes to the conclusion that colossal girl, always running to the hills, must be a part of nature, because she 'runs to the call of the wild' and 'talks to the trees, telling me that she's one of them.' The song further shows the transcendentalist emphasis on intuition rather than reason as the main singer calls out that 'some things are given with no reason why.' ( the fact that he's calling her colossal aka 'fat' may have something to do with why she keeps running away :-D )
"The Nature," by Talib Kweli, disses the modern world's nature, and tries to get kids to realize what is wrong with it's nature. For example the chrous is "
We gotta get back to what really matters/ We gotta search our soul to find out, what we're after/ The more I find my voice the more they try to make it harder/ Mom and dad don't forget, to warn your sons and daughters/ About the nature of the world today." Also, h
e opens the second verse by saying "
Don't nobody talk no more they all text message/ Drivin’ and typin’, not payin’ attention, missin’ they next exit/ Dependin’ on navigation they ever know where they goin’/ They stayin’ stuck in one spot they not growin’," which emphasizes that people put their trust too much in material possesions. Transcedentalism also tries to emphasize that material possesions do not mean everything, and that people should try and live a more simple life. Listen to the song:
by Green Day demonstrates views of transcendentalism through the strong ideas against conformity and for individualism. For example the lyrics "Everything isn't meant to be okay./ Television dreams of tomorrow./ We're not the ones meant to follow" reflects the idea that we are each individuals and have our own purpose in life. Some may not know exactly what theirs is while others do. And the sad truth is that many are in fact influenced by the media rather than purely their own beliefs. Think about it, think about how many times younger girls, teenage girls, and women in general worry about their image and weight everyday. Some don't, but in reality alot do. Do you think that it is just a coincidence that they do that? No, it is because mostly all you see on the television and in advertising are
pretty, drop dead gorgeous
girls. I mean who doesn't want to look like that girl on that show who effortlessly has all of the guys drooling over her? :P We may all have a different form of what in reality seems to branch off from the same types of dreams and ideals, but not
in life will be
or as perfect as television commercials and ads may make it seem. Just because the media says one thing, doesn't mean it is a way of life in which you must live by. Although it may seem very bold of Green Day to call Americans "idiots", this seemingly exaggerated idea is quite true in portraying the reality in which most Americans live, as "One nation controlled by the media". Don't get me wrong, not all of America is like this :] (Transcendentalism points to those who aren't or strive to break away from conformity), but from a wider perspective, we are all alot more influenced by the media than perhaps we may like to believe.
" by Snow Patrol contains transcendental ideas throughout the song through the idea that one must rely first on himself and his own knowledge before listening to the ideas of others. An example of this in the lyrics would be "We'll do it all/ everything on our own/ we don't need anything/ or anyone". These lyrics reveal that all you really need to survive is yourself, and this idea parallels that of Emerson and Thoreau. They too felt that you should trust your own feelings and intuition, "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string" (Emerson). "Chasing Cars" also demonstrates transcendentalist ideas in its mention of nature. "Forget what we're told/ Before we get too old/ Show me a garden thats bursting into life." Emerson and Throeau had a strong belief in the beauty and power of nature. They felt that when anyone stepped into nature they were returned to the innocence of their youth. "In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child" (Emerson). The stanza of "Chasing Cars" that relates back to nature ties back into those same transcendentalist ideas. It reveals both the idea that one must not trust what he is told by others but what he teaches himself, and also the idea that nature is full of pure, new life. "Chasing Cars" very clearly demonstrates two important characterists of transcendentalism throughout the song.
" by Incubus is completely intertwined with the ideas of trancendentalism. The entire song is about living out your life, and not adhering to the conformist "corporate" world. In the chorus, Brandon Boyd asks the listener to tell him whether or not he should just be like what he is told to be like, or whether he should venture into his own territory of humanity and the real "warmth" of being alive. Boyd then answers the question himself by giving the advice to not "let the world bring you down" because there are still some good people out there, and to remember the point of being alive, which a trancendentalism would say is to live naturally and by your own values, which is basically what "the warmth" represents. *WARNING-there's a tad bit of not so nice language*
As far as Beatles songwriting, George Harrison is often overshadowed it seems by three others: Lennon, McCartney, and Lennon/McCartney; however, some of his work can be counted among the most beautiful and melodic selections the group has to offer [think “Here Comes the Sun”], and it often seems to have a certain transcendentalist vibe about it. One of his songs, “Within You Without You” particularly stands out in that area. It gives the advice, “Try to realize it's all within yourself/ no one else can make you change/
and to see you're really only very small/ and life flows on within you and without you.” That first line quoted connects, rather obviously, to the transcendentalist theme that true enlightenment lies within. The second line is reminiscent of Emerson’s statement that “no law is sacred to me but that of my nature.” The third and fourth lines really make up the heart and true meaning of the song, that all people will eventually find their own very small places in life and allow life to take its course- basically saying, “Hey, sit back and chill. It’s all about the journey.”
*oh and yes, I'm not cool enough to figure out how to put links in mine*
“Philosophy” by Ben Folds exhibits the transcendentalist idea of going by your own rules, not caring what other’s think or what other’s think is best for you, and essentially like the title suggests, living by the philosophy you have for yourself.
Despite Thoreau and Emerson’s somewhat common transcendentalist philosophy, each had a different way of living.
The biggest mistake of today’s society could arguably be doing something because someone else thinks you should do it or not doing something because other people laugh at it.
Ben Fold’s expresses his feelings about doing what he thinks is right for him in his lyrics “
Go ahead you can laugh all you want, I got my philosophy, Keeps my feet on the ground.
This philosophy seems to be about nonconformity though living by ones own beliefs.
Another aspect of this song would be to look at the beginning where it says:
“Won't you look up at the skyline
At the mortar, block, and glass
And check out the reflections in my eyes
See they always used to be there
Even when this was all was grass
And I sang and danced about a high-rise.”
This would hardly be about the serenity of nature as Thoreau thought it to be on the shores of
or in his isolated shack; however, it can nevertheless be looked at as somewhat of a lonesome isolated patch of city according to Ben Folds.
Serene in a different way and perhaps mesmerizing, it is not nature stripped down as Emerson and Thoreau thought of it, but still a type of place for serenity and philosophical thought.
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