Walt Whitman enjoyed the many simple things of life, I think, because he sensed the grand energies bound up in them. He had this incredible capacity to lay hold of the essence of the Universe through his work.
His observations, analysis, and synthesis allow him to create, evoke, and question the grand schemes of the Spirit in simple things — simple things like leaves of grass or a lake or a child or a prostitute or … . He defines and characterizes qualities of people, nations, Nature, the Universe, concepts (liberty, democracy, jobs, love, connections) in such a way that he devolves their essence to the ultimate goal of his work: the individual, the “I.” Whether he engages his words to work towards himself, you, me, or some stranger, he makes all applicable to his reader; he creates an identity, a connection of simple things to the Universe itself.
This is the spirit that is offered through that amazing document I have examined with you over the last few days, the Declaration of Independence. He expands and personifies those concepts; he knows that the work of the liberty of souls that make up nations, America in particular, is never finished, always facing new challenges, but it has been offered so wisely as to always be able to adapt. Again, that adaptation must take place in masses of individual souls before any nation will know the effects of such freeing, loving self-awakening.
And W.W. knew that self-awakening; he heard his own heart, knew his core Self, and created his life purpose with such focus that doubt never deterred him from moving forward. How would we know this? In the words of the poem “L. of G.’s Purports” (Leaves of Grass — Title of his expanding lifelong work), he says, “Not to exclude or demarcate, or pick out evils from their formidable masses (even to expose them) / But add, fuse, complete, extend — -and celebrate the immortal and the good. / Haughty this song, its words and scope, / To span vast realms of space and time, / Evolution — the cumulative — growths and generations. / …Wandering, peering, dallying with all — war, peace, day and night absorbing…” He knows what he is creating.
Yet in his poem, the one from which he plucks the title of his lifelong work, he conveys this in such ease and simplicity. In the 52 section long “Song of Myself,” Section 6 contains these words: “A child said ‘What is the grass?’ fetching it to me with full hands; / How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.” And Whitman goes on from there with many insightful analogies. He sees the grass embracing the concepts of creativity, universality, and equality: “Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, / And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, / Growing among black folks as among white, / Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive the the same.”
He sums it up with the idea that the grass is “the beautiful uncut hair of graves.” And in that he sees encompassed everyone, everything — equality, eternity, the eternal life force of those who have died: “They are alive and well somewhere, / The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, / And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, / And ceas’d the moment life appear’d. / All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, / And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.” No, he is not a fatalist with a death wish; Walt Whitman is a man who sees eternity bound up in blades of grass — equality, hope, unity, democracy, liberty — a simple handful of grass that a child brought to him.
I had not planned this direction when I began this. I wanted to end up commenting on a short poem about liberty. Maybe tomorrow. For this evening, though, I will end up with these questions.
How sure are we of our core Self identity?
Are we sure enough that we choose to create our life purpose and go forward with determination and joy, no matter what anyone thinks of it? (Whitman did; he had a crap load of negative criticism).
Does our life purpose allow us to see the essence of eternity, unity, the Universe and Spirit in our daily actions and observations?
Do we have a sense of the value and eternal nature of life, our souls? Do we have it to such a degree that Death is just part of it all, nothing to sorrow over for long, nothing to depress us to stop living, something that shows the value of that for which we lived?
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!