by Sean Hilton
A silly college professor accused me of plagiarism my sophomore year for this short essay
| In his poem “A Song of Myself”, Walt Whitman essentially proclaims that nature, in all its myriad forms, is the unadulterated state of complete being. This landscape of temporal existence is the manifestation of the universal, which bears an impalpable essence incapable of being wholly confined by human definition. Thus, Whitman states that “[his] tongue, every atom of [his] blood, [is] formed from the soil,” (1:6) and that we are, in fact, the embodiment of nature. The belief carried by most Romantics is that we are all unified in the act of witnessing and participating in the natural world, which Whitman states “is not far, it is in reach” (46:12). “Nature without check with original energy” (1:13) is a vast, unified, primordial soul. The physical universe is the cerebellum which composes the universal mind. We must simply consider that “perhaps (we) have been on it”, this perfect state of existence which we call the universe, “since we were born and did not know” (46:13), and only upon our remembrance can we understand that we are the divine thoughts incarnated into actuality.
Because nature is a place where the evolution of consciousness is in a state of ever increasing growth and complexity, Whitman is able to receive communion with the immortal. Nature’s importance lies in the multi-colored spectrum of diversity, which can be experienced purely, completely, and through an entity encompassing vast “multitudes” (51:8), despite the contradiction this creates within the realm of reason. Nature is emphasized because of its enchanting ability to connect the self and the universe, and free us from the dichotomous experience of isolation which the ego is subjected to within time and space.
In Whitman’s view, it is in fact our identification with the confines set by time and space, which are products of our finite understanding that thrusts us infinitely apart from ever knowing the boundless wonder of reality. Yet, Whitman states “I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured and never will be measured” (46:1). This claim implies that he does not try to escape temporality, but instead experience the infinite through finitude. Therefore, Whitman considers himself a “poet of the Body and… the poet of the Soul” (21:1). Whitman is ardent in testifying that he is connected to “old and young… one of the nation of many nations,” and forever in relationship with all (16:1). Such a thought seems absurd to the mind which relentlessly attempts to use rationality, as if it were a dam, to separate itself from the calm currents of the tranquil ocean of pure being.