This week, a poem. Or a few excerpts from a poem. This is from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun,
(there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third
hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor
feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take
things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your
After some conversations with my mom last week I’ve been thinking about what it means to celebrate myself and sing myself. In my family of origin we were taught (sort of unwittingly, but also sort of not) to distrust the things that brought us pleasure. Things that made us happy. If we liked or wanted something — something as simple as reading a good book or bigger things like being on a sports team or taking a trip to the ocean — we questioned whether or not we ought to enjoy it. And always seemed to feel a vague, unnameable guilt if we decided to indulge. It was rooted in our theology, as all things were, and the assumption (or so it seemed to me) was that if we wanted something, if we enjoyed it, God must not want us to have it. This all strikes me now as plainly sad and incongruous with my notions of a benevolent Mercy thrumming at center of all things.
Maybe this all sounds sort of hippy dippy? God as a Mercy thrumming at the center of things? I suppose it does. I suppose, though, that it’s also how I’ve been learning to listen to all sides and filter them from myself. Because I’ve discovered that I prefer a gentle Mercy to a masculine God who wags a finger while I enjoy a morning coffee. And I’m still trying to figure out, in my forties, how to keep shedding the latter image so that I can embrace the former. Because how does one sing oneself if they distrust every part that brings them pleasure? This, it seems, is my constant work — to continually recalibrate and relearn the ways that I see beauty and pleasure and joy so that I can possess all the good of the earth and sun.
the image above is a page from artist Allen Crawford’s rendering of Song of Myself