Yesterday, I began discussing the value and use of sound, waves of pressure that move air, move through air, vibrations that we sense and are part of the development of effective poetry. Music sends out pressure waves that we interpret in our minds, that moves most of us emotionally — the same with poetry. The cadence and rhythm of phonemes, syllables, and words can create emotions in and of themselves.
Writers, authors, know how to use words well. Great ones know how to listen for those cadences and rhythms of the vibrations of life all about them before they ever put words to paper or digital circuitry. They listen for it; they take the time to hear and analyze and interpret and create. Enter Walt Whitman.
His mind works through the filter and sway of his heart. Why would I say that? When one can hear and see and sense all that he did and identify in unity with it, that means that part of self has been yielded. This ultimately results in growth, joy, and myriad other consequences, but ego does not give up any part of self. Whitman had that ability to hear the music of life about him and translate it into words, and when one can hear those vibrations of life as he does, the heart has mediated with the Spirit — because he sought it, desired it, received it.
As I mentioned last night, Whitman writes a number of poems centered on songs. His “Song of the Redwood-Tree” gives us insight into hearing, really listening, and then making meaning of those precious, finely tuned energies of life. In the poem, initially he hears “A California song” when men are chopping down a huge hundreds-of-years old redwood tree. He physically hears “crackling blows of axes sounding musically driven by strong arms, / Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes, there in the redwood forest dense… .” What else does he hear? What makes this a song, something that reaches deep into the souls of people and moves them and delivers a message?
He listens more closely, with his heart, and senses “the mighty tree its death-chant chanting.” What is the tree saying to him? When I get to points like this, I have a strong desire to get on YouTube and read the whole beautiful poem, but I can’t now. If you have the chance, read these few poems of WW’s that I reference. It won’t be wasted time; see what music his poems sing to you.
His spiritual receptive sensors hear the tree’s energies, and he translates them for us. The tree speaks for two pages. In part, the tree speaks: “I too have consciousness, identity, / And all the rocks and mountains have, and all the earth, / Joys of the life befitting me and brothers mine, / Our time, our term has come.” The tree as Whitman hears it reveals that it vibrates with spirit. In doing so, it appears sentient, able to sing, and it accepts that its life is at an end. However, what its life has produced will move others into the future, a “grander future.”
Now, I don’t know what this says about conservation but based on Whitman’s other poems, I am fairly certain that he is not in favor of destruction of ecosystems. He is about balance; he doesn’t see death as an end but rather as a new adventure or a springboard for blessing of others to come. He really grasps life and death. The point here, though, is he hears the message of the redwood elevating to a “Still prouder, more ecstatic…chant.”
The tree’s chant ends with a prophetic statement that sees that generation of Americans will grow tall and strong and stalwart as the tree itself, but they, too, will come to a point that their culture will yield to something greater. And they, like the tree, will not be seen or appreciated for the value that they have provided to those future generations. Whitman sings the song of America as an ever-growing, progressing culture and nation; all who have gone before contribute to the “modern, child of the real and ideal.” Succeeding generations grow into spiritual fullness by engaging with the heart in their chosen work and direction “To build a grander future.”
We have our work to do not only in connecting with our hearts and then with the spirit bound up in life all around us but also in making meaning from Whitman’s song, really, the “Song of the Redwood-Tree.” How does it move us? What does that song do to us? I cannot answer for you because reading the whole poem is indeed a song, a very moving song full of reality and hope. But what I have shared in part here does lead to a few further questions.
How much time do we spend in fellowship with our hearts, listening for and interpreting life around us — nature, city life, suburbs, cultures, the endless possibilities around us?
In what ways and to what extent do we identify with those vibrational songs of the Universe?
How do those songs change us, help us, encourage us?
Walt, near the end of the poem, observes this: “The new society at last, proportionate to Nature…” See! How we treat Nature will predict our end, because it will be proportionate — might be good, might be bad. Depends on how the songs affect us!
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!