This quote by Walt Whitman popped up in my Facebook Memories feed this morning and as I read it, something said “go deeper… there is more here”.
“re examine all you have been told … dismiss whatever insults your own soul”
And so I went deeper, looking for a copy of Leaves of Grass and eventually finding an online edition (with the preface of the book, the source of the quote) and was moved even more by the full quote. . . and in discovering that Whitman (over)used the ellipsis . . . just as much as me!
Sometimes it’s worth going down a rabbit hole! Lately, in this my time of pausing in the Wheel of the Year, I have been exploring Whitman’s advice: reflecting on what I had thought to be true, only to find that some of my truths were perhaps only beliefs that were changing — and no longer resonating — as my own spiritual practice deepens, shifts and grows as I decolonize my words and outlook on the world.
I found that that fragment of Whitman’s prose was part of something so much more profound.
Here are his words in full . . . so beautifully reminding us that we are all poets, (“your very flesh shall be a great poem”) and charging us to align with our soul, our inner truth and the world around us.
“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. . . . . . . . The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured . . . . others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches . . . . and shall master all attachment.”
– from the preface of “Leaves of Grassland”, Walt Whitman
Wise words. Thank you, Walt!