Why the Value of Self-Reliance is at the Heart of Libraries
I recently returned to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s timeless essay “Self-Reliance”, and found it different from how I remembered it. Emerson’s self-reliance is rigidly individualistic, non-conformist, and solitary; a person must invent their own ideas, everyone else be damned. This differs slightly from our colloquial ideas of self-reliance as either self-made in a materialistic sense or the quality of a person who has achieved a lot through hard work (aka, “…blood, sweat, and tears.”). When we think of a self-reliant individual, many of us picture a pioneer-type in the Wild West, venturing out to explore the untamed wilderness and surviving to tell the tale. While not untrue in its essence, one may simply point out that though this person existed in the past, the West has been won. To that end, it must be asked: What is self-reliance in contemporary life?