I’ve written for several days now about sound being pressure waves, and those waves can take myriad forms and target myriad directions. When talented people apply those sounds to specific patterns to create various effects on others, we have, among many possibilities, music. When Walt Whitman, using his heart as filter, listener, and receiver discerned specific spiritual sound patterns from life around him, he interpreted and played them for us in his words, a poetry of songs, many songs. And he plays them for us, his readers, in his words.
In “A Song for Occupations,” Walt shares a wealth of ideas about an idealized democracy. I have shared before that idealism floats my boat, because ultimately, I, who am an idealist at heart and one who because of that reduces everything I can to the least common denominator, believe that Walt knew the reality of the fellowship of the heart. He was self-awakened and self-aware, and because of that, he stood out as someone who was often scoffed and avoided. Yet, he would never have spoken ill of anyone who detested him. It didn’t matter; he heard the songs of the world, the Universe, of life, and and the Spirit. He did not need anyone else’s approval or approbation. Neither should we. That is an ego move and motive.
He was, however, one who looked into his life and nation and saw the possibilities, which is why I say that he was an idealist. I believe he discerned the possibilities promised in the foundations of this nation, America. This nation embodied any who could come here and live their hearts and their truth and allow others to do the same. In some unstated ways, it was a foundation of love, because a nation that is built on self-awakening as a prerequisite for truly entering into all the possibilities of “certain unalienable rights” is a nation that countenances love in its composition. I don’t, however, believe that America has ever been close to realizing the fullness of that, but we are not finished yet. Becaue of that, though, any movements, of hatred, prejudice, bigotry, exclusion, or any energies approximating those are anti-American.
What song did Walt perceive that sang the possibilities of America? It was the song of an idealized democracy, built on the individual who would responsibly, lovingly, live their truth in their daily lives — the “I,” “You,” engaged in an awakened, self-aware life who valued all others who were doing the same, and those who struggled who had not awakened to the voice of their own hearts. He appreciated, accepted, and embraced all, no matter their beliefs or attitudes toward his beliefs or attitudes. And this is the music in “A Song for Occupations.” Note, it is FOR them, whoever is engaged in various callings, jobs, activities — FOR them, to help them hear the music, the song, the light and revelatory truth of the Spirit of the Universe. Not all will hear, but that doesn’t affect Walt.
If you have never read this grand poem, I would recommend it. Let me help give a little perspective through his words. “A Song for occupations! / In the labor of engines and trades and the labor of fields I find the developments, / And find the eternal meanings.” Walt makes it clear that he looked for the movement, mark, and unity of the Spirit in all around him — not some weird, ethereal, supernatural environment but rather the one that he saw in everyday life.
What do we purpose to look for, to understand, to learn from everyday life? Nothing? It doesn’t matter? Things don’t change? It wont’t do anything for me? It won’t help me? Do any of these thoughts come to your mind? Would you consider asking yourself what might happen if you, too, looked for “the developments,” “the eternal meanings?” How would it change your perception of others who don’t think exactly like you, don’t look like you, believe like you? I guarantee you right now that if you held a recently beating heart in your hands, you would not have one inkling, one iota of insight into who or what the possessor of that heart was, believed, or had done. It is the life of whoever embodied it. Cannot we understand that life is to be valued, appreciated, and loved?
Walt did. He saw the power and potential of each heart, each workwoman and workman. (Isn’t it ironic that I just had to tell my computer to learn the spelling of workwoman, even though Walt uses the word in this poem?) He says, “We consider bible and religions divine — I do not say that are not divine, / I say they have all grown out of you… / It is not they who give the life, it is you who give the life, / … The sum of all known reverence I add up in you whoever you are…” He sees the possibilities in everyone, the equality, the unity, the divine power not only in the women and men but also in each thing, tool, product, occupation, relationship — all exists for the “I” “You!” and the “I” and “You,” exist for all.
The individual gives meaning to anyone or anything else. This is a corollary to my Grand Unified Theory of Humanity, the common spirit of all, unifying all, manifested in all, and all without meaning except for our identity, interaction, and appreciation of it — because we have awakened to self. Significance, meaning, connection, and unity are found in hearing our hearts; then, we realize, as Walt does, that “Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters of cities, the going and coming of commerce and mails, are all for you. …” Walt goes on to speak of philosophies, politics, civilization, cultures, art, statistics, history, poems: “If you were not breathing and walking here, where would they all be? … / All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it… / All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments.”
All of life’s meaning rest in you and I, and it is a mystery in many ways. Walt acknowledges this himself: “Does all sit there with you, with the mystic unseen soul? // Strange and hard that paradox true I give, / Objects gross and the unseen soul are one.” Then, he goes on for two pages listing jobs, workers, tools, and all associated with those as the ones in whom all the Universe resides: all is from you; all is for you; you are for all, no matter what your employ, beliefs, actions — you relate to, affect, and are united with all of history and it is all for you. Like I said, a mystery in some ways.
But not in others. Sometimes mysteries are mysteries because we think that a simple explanation cannot possibly be THE explanation. Walt saw the grand scheme of life in the everyday, common people, products, and ideas around him. He saw that all related to the rest: “I intend to reach them my hand, and make as much of them as I do of men and women like you.”
Have we extended the thoughts and hands of acceptance, recognition, unity, peace, and love to our Universe and all in it? If so, we have heard the very music of the cosmos, the song of the Spirit of all, and that song is for us, no matter what we do — “A Song for Occupations.”
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Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!