We are still reading Book II of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Today I am reading Verse 8 of Starting from Paumanok. If you’re just joining me, start from Verse 1 here.
7 I am the credulous man of qualities, ages, races, I advance from the people in their own spirit, Here is what sings unrestricted faith. Omnes! omnes! let others ignore what they may, I make the poem of evil also, I commemorate that part also, I am myself just as much evil as good, and my nation is—and I say there is in fact no evil, (Or if there is I say it is just as important to you, to the land or to me, as any thing else.) I too, following many and follow'd by many, inaugurate a religion, I descend into the arena, (It may be I am destin'd to utter the loudest cries there, the winner's pealing shouts, Who knows? they may rise from me yet, and soar above every thing.) Each is not for its own sake, I say the whole earth and all the stars in the sky are for religion's sake. I say no man has ever yet been half devout enough, None has ever yet adored or worship'd half enough, None has begun to think how divine he himself is, and how certain the future is. I say that the real and permanent grandeur of these States must be their religion, Otherwise there is just no real and permanent grandeur; (Nor character nor life worthy the name without religion, Nor land nor man or woman without religion.)
What better way to start the new year than with a friendly reminder from Walt Whitman to exalt in the natural wonders around us. I think this verse is about balance and the grand scale of the universe. Every January, there are so many articles about how to make new year’s resolutions and why people fail to keep their resolutions. Amidst all this talk of struggle and failure, I personally needed Walt’s reminder that we are just as much evil as we are good, and perhaps evil doesn’t really exist. We are not just the best parts of ourselves, but also our vices, fears, and struggles. They make us part of who we are, and I am going to try to retain that kind of bright-eyed optimism this year, especially when reading the news and current events. And when you are feeling completely overwhelmed, just think of how divine this earth is, how Walt thought that our United States were so full of grandeur that its potential was worth worshipping. I have been doing a lot of thinking about the U.S. Constitution and how the preamble starts with “We the People, in Order to form a more perfect Union” – I’m not sure what Walt would think about the state of our Union today, but I think this verse is a reminder that there is a constant struggle to become more perfect.
Vocabulary Word of the Day: “Omnes” is Latin for “everyone”
As always, I invite you to join me, although it’s been a while since we last spoke. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or send me a link to your own #WhitmanWednesday posts and I’ll share them as well!