Ruston Kelly On Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson During The Pandemic

Apr 2, 2020
Originally published on April 2, 2020 9:33 am

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Ruston Kelly

Where: Nashville, Tenn.

Recommendation: Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson (and consuming art)


In all times of turmoil, tragedy, or suffering, we have placed in our path the opportunity to grow further and beyond what we are or were. It is the most fertile time to cultivate the Self, to believe in the Self, and by honing in what makes us individually better, we create a powerful sense of communal identity. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a personal hero of mine, states in his inspired and healing essay "Self-Reliance": "Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world." My power becomes your power, as yours is mine. I try to focus my attention on this daily, hourly, momentarily. And to know that the bigger the Goliaths, the greater our victories.

The mind is the action of the spirit which is the vehicle of the soul. Take care of the root and the tree will grow. What makes our spirit fluid? What clears the path? What reminds us of who we are and who we can become? It's the voices and the spirits of our poets and creators. Art, in times of cultural and social distress, can truly transform and heal a society. It can and it has and it will.

As the need for something real and tangible and empowering grows during crises, so does the call for artistic expression to honor that. It shoots straight to the essence of why we consume artwork. Whether it's junk sharpie drawings, Nirvana Live at the Paramount, or Emerson's essays on the betterment of the Self, Art is the giant hero among us and for us. By us. So my answer to all this? Create. Create more. Honor why you can create. Make it and share it and believe in who you are as you're doing it. And never stop doing it. Take what's ugly and make the world more beautiful with it. That is how the human spirit will always win.


Ruston Kelly's most recent release is Dirt Emo Vol. 1. He's currently preparing to release his sophomore album.

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