Transcendentalism, a philosophical movement that began in the early 1800s, is the belief that all people are, as individuals, pure and good. However, transcendentalists also believe that society and its institutions will ultimately pollute the integrity of these individuals. The core beliefs of this movement are rooted in nature and individualism: only when one breaks away from the chains of society and mass culture to find peace and independence through nature can they truly “transcend.” Led by figures such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman, the movement was among the earliest American intellectual movements, yet quickly died down after the late 1800s.
Still, some of the movement’s most common themes—nonconformity and connecting to nature—are still prevalent in modern entertainment. In the song Unwritten, Natasha Bedingfield emphasizes that each person is in charge of their own destiny, that no one, no society, no rules can dictate your path, that you “no one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips.” Additionally, Bedingfield advocates for non-conformity, singing “I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines. We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way.” The ideas of transcendentalism strongly resounds throughout her lyrics (which you should take a look at here), with subtle references to the intrinsic connection between man and nature (…let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find…feel the rain on your skin…). Indeed, the song embraces the qualities of Transcendentalism, for each one of us is unwritten, waiting to write our own stories.