“i celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what i assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…”
These are lines from the American poet Walt Whitman’s magnum ~”Songs of Myself”~ lines that fascinate me for the very basic questions they ask and some sublime answers that they provide.
In Whitman’s poetic vision the “self” was both individual and universal~ everyone else ultimately being much like us—embodied souls absorbing the world around. It’s a vision that resonates with the Hindu world-view i have grown up with. The atoms that make up this corporeal self have always been there and will always be there; we never dissolve but rather recycle through out time…we have been a million other things before and will be a million other things here after. This body that we inhabit and draw our identity from, this body that seems indistinguishable from our ‘self’ is always in an endless process of exchange with the universe around— a part of the ecological dance of life and death. It is awe-inspiring and to be revered for all that it can do. It lets the world in and through our wide-open senses we experience a non-stop influx of stimulation~ open your eyes and there are sights to see; open your ears and there are sounds to hear; you stretch your hands and reach out and there are things to touch and feel~ the objects of the universe converging on us in a perpetual flow of stimuli as if all that we encounter is there just for us. Our encounters are “written” for each one of us alone, signals for us to interpret and wonder as we attempt to fathom what the “writing” means…
And i say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For i who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much i am at peace about God and about death.)
i hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do i understand who there can be more wonderful than myself…
Why would i wish to see God better than this day?
i see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces f men and women i see God, and in my own face in the glass,
i find letters from God dropt in the street, and everyone is sign’d by God’s name,
And i leave them where they are, for i know that wheresoe’er i go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever…
What is a man anyhow? what am i? what are you?
All i mark as my own you shall offset it with your own,
Else it were time lost listening to me…
Why should i pray? why should i venerate and be ceremonious?
Having pried through the strata, analysed to a hair, counsel’d with doctors and calculated close,
i find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
In all people i see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad i say of myself i say of them.
i know i am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and i must get what the writing means….