Considering how much I have grown this year, it would be impossible to discuss my academic journey without considering my experiences this year in AP English III. Quite early in the first semester, I came to the realization that I could no longer “coast by” as I had in all my previous years of school. Facing an immense courseload and packed schedule, I made the mistake of skimming (instead of carefully reading) the books assigned for English class. But HOLY CRAP did this come back to bite me; after I received a couple… uh… low grades, I recognized that I needed to put in far more effort in order to succeed as I hoped to. Through the in-depth discussions following the completion of each novel I learned how to read critically, interpret symbolism (among numerous other rhetorical and figurative techniques), and become a more independent thinker — in that I could synthesize my own thoughts and opinions about literature instead of simply relying on Sparknotes summaries. The challenges I faced early in the year ultimately transformed my reading, and made me a stronger and more independent reader. With each novel we now discuss, I have creative, personal thoughts to contribute to the group, and I am incredibly grateful to have spent a year in a class that fosters such freedom of thought.
To me transcendentalism sounds a lot like what I hear from people who say, “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.” In its most basic definition, transcendentalists avow personal connections with nature in order to obtain insight into one’s own mind and soul. These individuals believed that more knowledge (or rather wisdom) can be gained through introspection than science, and that reality is different in each person’s own mind. A rather progressive philosophical movement, transcendentalism open the discussion about organized religion’s place in society, providing an outlet for those disenchanted with the Church yet still interested in God.
Though no one identifies as a transcendentalist these days, modern culture has taken notes from the group’s ideas. Especially in music, one can see how individualism has permeated each artist’s worldview. For example, in his song “Church” rapper Macklemore explains that he does not feel a spiritual connection through Mass services, but rather in his individual relationship with God. Expressing a rather common sentiment of futility in organized religion, speaking, “Stand up, sit down, stand up again/ Morse Code sent to God, are you listening?/ He must have been too busy fixing other shit,/ No call, no response shows the opposite.” Later in the song, however, he explains that he “Got God in [his] Walkman”, showing that music was his connection to the spiritual part of his mind. Ironically, though his lyrics explicitly mention drug use as a way to ‘expand his mind’, Macklemore follows the same strain of logic that Thoreau and Emerson (and Whitman, that bum) described in their philosophy of Transcendentalism — one is one’s own connection to God and reality.
As sorrow fills my body, I look down at my quiz. My physics instructor walks away, brimming with malicious joy. A bright “30” fills my sight, and I drop my cranium into my hands. “What did I do, Lord, to justify such an atrocity?” I ask. ” I always thought my instructor was fond of my hard work.” Sighing, I toss my quiz into a maroon plastic bin, and it lands among a pyramid of similar trash.
Having lost all positivity, I stand up, push in my stool, and walk to a door at back of my instructor’s classroom. Ignoring thoughts of principal visits, I push on its wood, and it swings into a busy hallway. Anonymously morphing into a crowd, I fly away from my awaiting physics crucifixion, and toward my car. Turning my ignition, I start my Honda Accord, and soar down Highway 6 until my gas tank hits 0.