Transcendentalism Wrap Up Project
Some of the songs on the CD aren’t exactly clear on their transcendentalist properties, so I decided to just be Thoreau (yes that is a pun) and go through and define the songs’ transcendentalist properties. Tracks 1. )The Dive by Eyedea & Abilities- Aside from being an awesome and thought provoking song, this track opens up the ideas of Emerson’s Self- Reliance for me pretty well. The song talks about how someone goes out to look for the meaning of life and existence, rather than seeking it from within. The person in the song goes insane over time, and gets further and further away from the truth the harder they look for it.
This personifies the idea that seeking outside of one’s self will not lead to true knowledge and wisdom, a totally Emerson idea. 2. Come As You Are by Nirvana- This happens to be not only one of my favorite songs of all time, but also a great representation of Self-Reliance’s ideas of being yourself and not trying to conform. This is contradicted a little bit when Kurt Cobain says, “come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be…” rather than allowing the person addressed to come as they themselves want to be, but otherwise I think that the song supports Emerson’s ideals pretty well. 3.
Gone by Jack Johnson- This song is a bit mellower than Nirvana, but it still projects a similar idea. JJ sings about how worldly possessions are just material things, and don’t define a person, and thus are unimportant. He says, “gone be the birds if they don’t wanna sing, gone people all awkward with their things…” which I like to interpret as a metaphor for ignoring those who don’t conform, either by not singing, or by being “awkward with their things”. So maybe Jack Johnson isn’t so transcendental, but hey, parts of it work, and he might just have meant that he wants everything to be the way he wants it to be.
Birds singing, no awkward, materially obsessed people. 4. )Forest Whitaker by Brother Ali- I really like this song, because it makes me feel good about myself, which is always nice. Aside from being a nice fun song, Bro Ali raps about how he accepts himself, and refuses to change himself based off of what others think he should look or act like. This falls directly into what I’m calling the Emerson category, and more specifically, the Self-Reliance category. I’m just saying, perfect example. 5. )
Express Yourself by N. W. A. – Possibly the only song that’s relatively clean by N. W. A. , this song seems to have been influenced by a couple of transcendentalists. It transitions well from the ideas of Emerson to those of Thoreau, saying that you should, “Express yourself”. (duh) Also, the song talks about how you should be out on the street protesting, and, “Expressing yourself with full capabilities, and living in correctional facilities”. You can feel free to shower compliments on me for how perfect some of these songs are. I don’t mind. 6. )Not Afraid by Eminem- The chorus is fairly self-explanatory.
“I’m not afraid to take a stand, everybody come take my hand, we’ll walk this road together…” Eminem clearly is not afraid to stand up to society and, assuming that the content of his other work is consistent with his beliefs, he doesn’t mind taking a stand against the government either. I hesitate to use another Thoreau-thorough pun, so I will just point out that Eminem seems to support Thoreau’s transcendentalist ideas of civil disobedience. 7. )Outta My System by My Morning Jacket- I feel like this is a Ramones type song if the Ramones were more into hallucinogens and flowers, and less into heavy drums and guitar solos.
I could actually probably throw I Wanna Be Sedated into the lineup and rationalize it. Anyhow, this song talks about not listening to the “man” or, more specifically, “society” and trying to “get it out of my system”. Not exactly a transcendentalist idea, but Jim James is quite obviously acting outside of the law, “smoking drugs”, which Thoreau, at least, seems to love. Not smoking drugs… acting outside of the law. He also steals cars apparently, which isn’t really a transcendentalist idea either. The point I’d like to focus on, however, is that Jim James is acting out against the rules and expectations set for him by others.
So good for him, smoking drugs and committing grand theft auto. 8. )Prayer of the Refugee by Rise Against- Rise Against does a bunch of revolution-type songs, and I knew I would pick one of them for this project. I decided on Prayer of the Refugee because it talks about how, “the angry and the desperate, the hungry and the cold”, rise up against what I can only assume is an oppressor. The chorus is super transcendental, saying, “don’t hold me up now, I can stand my own ground, I don’t need your help now, you will let me down”.
I’m convinced that someone paid attention to the class discussion on transcendentalism back in high school. This band could be hanging out with Emerson and Thoreau if the two weren’t so dead. So, in conclusion, I did an awesome job and I think that we should have more projects where we can utilize music and/or art. Not that I don’t LOVE reading Hawthorne and writing synthesis essays, but it’s nice to mix it up. By the way, Fergalicious is a BONUS TRACK, in which I can’t find any transcendental ideas, but I hope you enjoy it simply for enjoyment’s sake. Happy Thanksgiving!