Transcendentalism Pop Culture Project Mr. Turner


“Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance"

For the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Lady Gaga donned a headline- grabbing dress made of raw meat. The gag-worthy garment gained a lot of negative attention, but Gaga explained that the dress was a statement about one's need to fight for one's beliefs. Media outlets from Time Magazine to Vogue commented upon the stunt, criticizing singer's lack of taste and poor judgment. Vegetarian groups and PETA also lambasted the singer. Later, Gaga said the dress was designed to highlight the way women are treated "as pieces of meat."

While I don't wish to elevate Gaga to a parallel platform with Socrates, Galileo, or Jesus, it is fair to say that her nonconformist message is clear through her fashion and her music. All of the great men mentioned by Emerson were rebels and were, at times, harshly criticized by their peers. The same can be said of Gaga.

Lady Gaga is definitely an attention- house who successfully uses the controversy she creates to increase the commercial success of her music; nevertheless, she is also a talented musician and symbol of empowerment for those who don't fit into the mainstream mold. Repeated messages of rejecting society's rules and listening to your own heart/ celebrating your own unique beauty are found in her lyrics. If the Transcendentalists were still trying to build their utopia, Gaga would definitely be invited to join them.

Importance of Nature

"The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature"

In 2016, The Hotelier released their album Goodness. Throughout the album, Christian Holden, the band's lyricist, struggles with accepting his grandmother's death. The album tracks his fight with this traumatic death, which eventually leads to Christian accepting the death and being at peace with the universe.

The ninth track, "Soft Animal", is the turning point for Holden's battle with this grandmother's death. In this song, he encounters a fawn that changes not only his perspective on his grandmother's death, but Holden's own place in the universe. The chorus contains the lines "fawn doe, light snow/ Make me feel alive/ Make me believe that I don't have to die..../Make me believe that there's a God sometimes." In these lines, Holden experiences a transcendental transformation as he gains transcendent knowledge not only about his grandma's death, but also transcendent knowledge of God. From an ordinary experience with a deer, Holden has these miraculous experiences. These experiences are only possible through his interaction with nature. As seen by the first quoted line, two elements of nature, the doe and the snow, are the catalyst to his transcendent experience.

Like the Emerson quote suggests, Holden is able to find the miraculous in the common. Both deer and snow are common sightings in Massachusetts where Holden makes his home. Holden can find acceptance of his mother's death through the everyday or common cycle of life as seen through the deer's death. The deer appears to Holden sharing a tender moment with him, only for it to run off and eventually be killed by a gunshot. Holden hearing the shots ponders this everyday occurrence and what this killing means for this moment he just shared with the deer. He mentions that even though the deer has passed, he can still "feel the rustling as you go." Noting the rustling of the deer, Holden emphasizes still having the memory and wonderful experience of seeing the deer. This memory of the deer cannot be tarnished by the deer's inevitable death. These same feelings can be applied to his feelings about his grandmother. Holden can come to accept his grandmother's death as the natural part of life, but still value and cherish the memories with her. He can still feel the rustling of her even as she goes.

Simplified Life

Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

Henry David Thoreau, "Walden"

Tiny Houses


Created with images by ChrisA1995 - "Nature" • Harald_Landsrath - "goose geese head animal" • humberpike - "Battle-of-the-divas-Susan-Boyle-pictured-in-New-York-this-week-will-go-up-against-Lady-Gaga-at-next-year's-Grammys-after-both-scoring-nominations-for-Best-Pop-Vocal-Album" • ChrisA1995 - "Nature" • BobMacInnes - "fawn 1" • congerdesign - "eat carrots peas" • wheezinggirl - "Tiny House Front"

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