Every year about this time in my American Literature classes we get on the topic of transcendentalism, namely the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. This leads us to reading comparative essays by Wendell Berry. This also invariably causes students who are fans of the NBC hit show Parks and Recreation to draw the conclusion that Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) is a modern day transcendentalist.
I love making connections for students in pop culture, because it further ingrains difficult concepts into the minds of students without much effort. Not only that, Parks and Recreation is airing its final episode tonight on NBC. Don’t miss it.
Here are three simple reasons that Ron Swanson is indeed a transcendentalist:
“Simplify, simplify, simplify” – Henry David Thoreau stated that in order for one to become more spiritual, that person must completely simplify their life to the point that they don’t clutter it up with a host of distractions like (in a modern sense) video games, cell phones, computers, gadgets, or excessive material possessions.
“That government which governs least governs best” – This quote from Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience” sums up how Ron Swanson feels about government. He is a self-styled libertarian, but at his core he believes that government should not get involved in the affairs of its citizens.
“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship” – This quote by Emerson sums up the way Ron Swanson feels about nature. He owns a cabin in the woods that is free of electricity so that he can go there when he wants to get away from everything and have silence. He was once asked to speak about nature paintings by a very annoying Leslie Knope, and here is what he had to say about it: