Romanticism in West and East Essay Examples & Outline
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Quest for Self: Romanticism in West and East
Philosophy is an interesting discipline as it tries to find answers to several challenging aspects of man and the processes of nature. Since time immemorial, man has been in a quest to find the self and understand the surrounding in which they reside. In the West, realism and romanticism were two competing cultural thoughts and artistic styles aimed at communicating the interactions/relationships between mankind and nature.
Romantics associated with Plato emphasized on individual heroic achievement, power of emotions and mysticism dominating the European intellectual life while realists associated with Aristotle focused art and literature to more tangible matters with the intention of glorifying real individuals and promote social justice. Realist emerged after romantics and they intended to express people's real experience what does it take to be a powerful individual in the society. In the East "Siddharta" is a text by Herman Hesse published in the United States 1951 and describes the self-discovery spiritual journey of a man during Gautam Buddha's time.
The book proved influential in the 1960s. The word Siddhartha refers to an individual who has found meaning for his existence. The west and East have differed on a number of philosophical issues even in the present world citing the different ideology orientations of different nations across the globe. This discussion, citing the western views of the self-represent by realist and romantics and the East perspective illustrated by Siddhartha explores what both have in common and the manner in which they contrast in the contexts of society and nature.
It is clear that both ideologies have controversial issues citing wealth acquisition as an example, leading to different directions in the cultures of the West and East. The difference is attributed to the criteria adopted by the individuals using the diverse cultures. The emergent issue is the difference and evolution of eastern and western philosophy that reflect on the dominant concept of reality, life, and the self. Based on history, Islamic and Asian states constitute the East while the United States, Australia, Europe and Canada have been regarded as the West.
Romanticism begins with the internal world of the self and denies the existence of the material world while realists uphold that the mind is independent of the surrounding world whose phenomenal qualities are intrinsic in themselves. William Wordsworth (177-1850) a realist poet operated on the principle that “The infinite variety of natural appearances” an implication that there are various forms of matter in the universe each independent of each other.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) is an example or a romantic author since she hails poets as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world” an illustration that she acknowledges that poets obtain their authority from nature and it is a source of inspiration. Both traditions although different try to formulate a monistic account of reality by reducing the same to materialistic substance. The aspect of nature is different or contributes to human processes which together constitutes both exist in the universe.
To provide a general characterization of Buddhism and distinguishing the traditions of Mahayana and Theravada calls for the statement that Theravada maintains a dualistic view where Nirvana is something different that from everyday world and can be perceived by senses while Mahayana upholds a non-dualistic view holding that Samsara and Nirvana are same reality experiences perceived from different standpoints. Although the ideology does not advocate elimination of phenomenal experiences, it emphasizes on the non-conceptual nature of reality where the notion of phenomena are a product of illusory thoughts.
Romantics wrote literature that were passionate about their nation’s victories and perceived themselves as part of grand peoples destined to reshape the globe. This may be the reason many westerners feel they possess superiority of knowledge and feel the need to spread the same knowledge to the rest of the globe especially in nations that are termed as underdeveloped. Art by realists illustrated real situations such as individuals who had accomplished selected victories in the society or people involve in different activities known in the community such as festivities or farming.
Romantic literature is characterized by characters that were not of our conscious kin and no development is shown, the universe is incomprehensible, uses formal language, the plot is crafted around a crisis moment and narration that offers a description of the scene. They questioned science and even though their work portrayed superficial powers, troubling questions still emerged such as what are the consequences of having superficial powers and being considered as “different” from the rest of the population.
The 19th century also known as the romantic era was characterized by the west transforming from an agricultural to an industrially based economy, application of science to practical inventions-production of goods shifted from homes to manufacturing factories-stimulating the development of urban centers and giving the west dominion over the rest of the world, population growth and nationalism-individuals patriotically identified themselves with a territory that embraced a common history and language.
As recorded by history books, the west quickly gained popularity across the globe and in acknowledging their recognition, the west are known to have colonized several states in the view of spreading civilizations. It is through the works of romantics that the capitalism ideology was born since every individual struggled to attain wealth and be powerful; a form of status in the society. The East was not left behind in the era of industrialization however; the socialism ideology seemed to prevail in that in wealth creation, one was not supposed to do so by destroying nature or acting superior on their counterparts.
Romanticism refers to a story that is improbable and adventurous in nature citing the chronicles of Narnia as an example. The romantic era refers to the cultural and literary movements from 1770 to 1860 in Europe, England, and America. The authors of this era celebrated imagination versus reason, subjectivity versus objectivity and individualism versus socialism. They wanted to revive spiritual values in an era dominated by institutional religion. They considered people as gods who were ruined and were only able to regain their spiritual birthright if they attended to what was divine within them. Nature inspired self-discovery, and it was the medium that united man's soul with God.
The west romantics tend to adore nature as a hut where the self can achieve its full potential. After all, if all conditions are deemed conducive what is meant to grow will thrive and give fruits. Furthermore, they advocate self-reliant individualism. This culture is characterized by destructive, futile and egotistic aspects as the heroes' quest for victories. In most cases, these characteristics clashed with conventional religious and social dogma whereby people were supposed to live as a community to promote individual well being. In the social aspect, romantics are politically progressive and radically egalitarian. There literally techniques utilized symbols and fantastic elements to illustrate mental processes themes. This style is usually considered as original.
The United States culture is characterized by prioritization of egalitarianism and individuals. This is similar to the primary feature of romanticism-celebration of and with obsession of individualism. Democracy is a situation that elevates all individuals of a situation to the same level (status). This implies that that each person has an opportunity to optimize their own worth; pursue their aspirations without interference. But the same is also disadvantageous following the sense of isolation among community members. Everyone is busy concentrating in their own endeavors forgetting the need to socialize and be concerned about their friends and family well being. In as much as, we adopt new ideologies, forgetting the traditional contexts leads to insecurity about values arising and people begin to concern themselves with what their counterparts are doing.
Although Asian authors anticipated the romantic engagement with nature, their style considerably differed with the west. They described nature’s moods using carefully chosen words, suggesting the subtlest of analogies between human condition and natural landscape. The East recorded natural appearance with some immediacy. Using Siddhartha as a literary example of the East, several themes emerge in an effort of the individuals to find themselves. Siddhartha and Govinda travel the world in search of having a clear understanding of life (Nirvana) through spirituality.
"He wore his gown and walked along exactly like the other monks, but his face and his step...spoke of peace, spoke of completeness, ...an unfading light, an invulnerable peace."(28). The characters establish that an unrelenting search for truth is essential for establishing a harmonious relationship with the world. The conclusion is that finding Nirvana is possible and should be the end goal that every man aspires to reach. "Truly, nothing in the world has occupied my thoughts as much as the Self, this riddle, that I live, that I am one and am separated and different from everybody else, that I am Siddhartha" (38). There is a difference though on how or what both individuals are willing to engage in as they search for the truth. Siddhartha is willing to abandon a path that he suspects would lead to a dead end including departing from his spiritual teachers and associating with Kamala and Kamaswani.
It is clear that before he arrives at Nirvana, Siddhartha would not relent in his search and would follow any path that leads him there. Began to walk quickly and impatiently, no longer homewards, no longer to his father, no longer looking backward" (42). Govinda, on the other hand, is less flexible and restricts himself to the spiritual world and persists in his desire and need for teachers. The situation described makes it impossible for Govinda to see the truth around him following the limitation of his belief that the truth will reveal itself only in the form that he has been taught by his teachers. Siddhartha established the fact that the truth can only be found from within.
Self-realization does not come from imparted wisdom but rather via internal connection the river, which he finds contains the whole universe. Govinda gets to see the nature of existence after kissing Siddhartha's forehead. In as much as, he relies on lessons from Siddhartha he gets to make his own interpretation of nature existence. This implies that Nirvana comes from within, and exterior paths only act as a guide. Taking an indirect direction towards finding the self is characterized by many challenges taking into account all elements of the world as is therefore viewed as a better avenue to offer an individual the distance with which to perceive the unity of the world.
Despite the differences both cultures address an enduring theme; the importance of nature in liberating human beings from the confines of the material world. This suggests that human life processes are an extension of the rhythms and patterns that govern the universe itself. This implies that in the quest for self in both East and West individuals are at the liberty to explore the universe and find themselves in terms of the roles they play in the universe.
In summary, conditions that facilitated romanticism in America includes the search for new spiritual roots, immigration that brought about development of new perspectives and culture, industrialization, spirit of optimism appealed by the promise of an uncharted frontier and frontier promised opportunity for freedom and growth. The era of Buddhism involved the natural landscape and nature being the dominant feature in literature of the East, embraced nature as the only source of private meditation and solitary joy, perceived nature as symbolic of the oneness with nature and man and the changes in nature (changing seasons and mountainous landscapes) are metaphors for human feelings and moods. Philosophical inquiries of the western culture have either been romantic or realist.
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha (unabridged Start Classics). Lanham: Start Publishing LLC, 2013. Internet resource.