Spent this past weekend purging our garage and came across a healthy stack of random papers, letters & small notebooks; which later turned into a couple hours of riveting entertainment. I also fell in love with Walt Whitman’s writings & can finally answer the old cocktail conversation question:
“If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?”
What I would love to find out is whether he truly lives his quote, “I exist as I am, that is enough.” It is a lesson most learn too late in life to truly enjoy its’ worth; so, did he get to enjoy it? Or was this simply an affirmation he would like to share with people?!! The poet obviously captured my imagination back in my late 20’s… but he is also responsible for me researching the transcendental movement originating & thriving during the first half of the 1800’s.
I completely respond and relate to this movement; transcendentalists were strong believers in the power of the individual. Their beliefs are not based on the physical experience, but on the inner spiritual or mental essence of the human. I remember a conversation I had back in high school with my dad, about religion & how I would turn to God in a time of crisis. He said, “should you find yourself on a tiny ledge off the side of a cliff… you would start praying for God’s help.” It didn’t take more than a second before I calmly replied, “no Dad, I would be too busy trying to find my way off that ledge.” I wonder if it would’ve helped me back then to have read more of Whitman or Emerson? Certainly wouldn’t have hurt me any!!
Another quality we transcendentalists have in common (my new best friends) is the burden of looking at the world as something that needs to be fixed. In particular, the idea that organized religion and political parties ultimately corrupt the purity of the individual. We have faith that people are at their best when truly self-reliant and independent. I believe this movement has been revitalized in the yoga movement going on now… maybe Walt could’ve used a good yoga master.
Ok, off track… time to come full-circle back to why I am searching through old papers and notes to find some coherence or reason for this blog… and then I found my inspiration while reading Walt’s poem “O ME! O Life!” and the “Answer” he provided was exactly what I needed to read that night:
O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring:
Of the endless trains of the faithless – of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light – of the objects mean –of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O Me! So sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here – that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
Robin Williams delivers that line so well in “Dead Poets Society”… and you will contribute a verse; brings me to tears every time!! And now it is my turn to share a poem I wrote back in my early 20’s; it definitely shows my transcendental side:
The world offers no solace
Crying out loud
Please scream louder
Feel the abundance of pain
Live the sorrow
I feel the calling
Not of the Lord
But that of struggle
I watch the TV
I see the joy
This isn’t truth
This is a fabricated world
I yearn deeply
For a life of joy
Unity known and felt
Preach no more
We know our path
To venture alone
Wake up new world
Knowledge leads the way
Cry not for fear
Tiers of life
And, yes… “tiers” is spelled correctly. Please don’t think I fancy myself a poet, I just wanted to share something I found in a book I self-published back in my 20’s. The book never went further than family and friends; it is very transparent and full of yearning, but delightfully positive when you least expect it. I’m quite certain I will share some more in later postings… and CHEERS to my transcendental transformation!