Last night I wrote of the analogy of staking claims on a mine to using the creative works, words, and labors of others in order to obtain something useful and enriching for us.
Tonight, I picture walking into a darkened mine shaft, stepping inside, and turning on my very bright flashlight of discovery. For a split second, all is blackness, humid, stagnant, but then the brightness of glowing halogen reveals a massive streak of gold running beyond my ability to see it.
When I open Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, that is a picture I can see. Or when I look at Vincent’s or Dali’s art, or hear music that moves my soul, or any of a thousand endeavors — all riches to be mined and developed, to add to the wealth of this Universe as we each create new knowledge, ask new questions, discover and build new truths.
Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Exposition” is not regarded as highly by critics as some of his other poems, but neither Walt nor I care much about critics. Walt wants us to know the way he seeks to reconcile the dynamic life of the New World embodied in America. It is important to note that Walt wasn’t in favor of blind nationalism; he saw the spiritual potentials for all people as being possible in America, because of her unique founding, history, and testing through the Civil War. He traced those possibilities and the ways they might be known in the directions he observed the country was headed. He looked with an optimistic eye and spirit on it all, because he sensed the positive vibrational energy of the Spirit in all, even throughout the Civil War and its aftermath.
Let’s refine some ore, create the gold, and run all the way to the bank of our souls with it. In Section 3 of “Song of the Exposition,” Walt speaks to the great Muse of poetry to help him or any other New World poet to give a fresh, appropriate expression to a nation unlike any previously known. At this point, he has already referred to ancient Greeks and Romans. He says to us, his readers, “I, my friends, if you do not, can plainly see her, / The same undying soul of earth’s, activity’s, beauty’s, heroism’s expression.” Walt says that he can see the Muse operating in America.
He expects the muse to give voice and inspiration for this new expression of life in America, but it is an expression that has benefitted from the Old World. Can we see the threads of work of Spirit in any time, any setting, any person? It’s a marvelous ability to be able to do so, and Walt himself calls on extra energy in the form of the muse to do it. The ability to see the “undying soul” of expression in any thing takes practice, and that is solid gold.
Following this in Section 3, Walt recounts all the great inspiration that the Muse has given poets in ancient times about things like the Sphinx in Egypt, the crusades, the story of King Arthur, and many other things. He ends the section with this observation about the Muse: “She’s here, install’d amid the kitchen ware.” I almost laugh at that picture of one of the lovely Greek goddesses who inspired people to present majestic messages, messages which recorded great battles and feats and loves and tragedies of history, now ethereally appearing, hanging out, among the pots and pans in a kitchen.
However, that picture brings us another chunk of gold. What inspiration do we sense in common, everyday people, places, and things? Do we look around us and sense great nobility in these workaday surroundings, nobility of epic proportions like Odysseus, Beowulf, Helen of Troy, Shakespeare, or any of hundreds of others that could be named — right in our kitchen? Walt’s presentation to us of the Muse in the kitchen invites us to do so: “I say I see, my friends, if you do not…” How much more joy could we have if we found noble inspiration there? Again, such insight takes practice but is available for all.
This poem is full of rich chunks of ore from which we could refine so much. Walt tells the Muse in Section 5 “I candidly confess… // the same old human race, the same within, without, / Faces and hearts the same, feelings the same, yearnings the same, / The same old love, beauty and use the same.” The deeper message to be refined here consists of the nature of humanity: it is the same throughout all times. However, the way those qualities are expressed vary, and we have the opportunity to engage our spiritual senses to perceive the movement of Spirit in all of life through the energy of Heart.
This Heart energy minimizes ego and does away with the deadly consequences, such as those Walt witnessed in the Civil War. In Section 6, Walt shifts from addressing the Muse to America, to whom he speaks of a “Practical, peaceful life, the people’s life, the People themselves, / Lifted, illumin’d, bathed in peace — elate, secure in peace.” And then immediately beginning in Section 7, he says, “Away with themes of war! away with war itself!” It requires using Heart as filter and operating system to perceive inspiration in daily life and to know war can be eliminated. Ego would never bring us to such places, but Heart always would.
Near the beginning of this poem, in Section 1, the original first lines read like this: “After all not to create only, or found only, / But to bring perhaps from afar what is already founded, / To give it our own identity, average, limitless, free…” Can we take these rich chunks of gold ore and refine them for ourselves, make them our own, enrich ourselves with them? Can we look at our life in this world and “give it our own identity,” i.e., come to know core Self and relate to life based on that, our own identity?
I hope so. We’ll have 24 karat experiences if we can!
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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!