The Patron Saint of The Individual: Walt Whitman

The Patron Saint of The Individual: Walt Whitman

[subscribe2]Becoming an genuine individual is a great risk and can usher in profound criticism from the world of convention where “approvals” are the hallmark of the day. The path of authenticity is “apolitical” in that it neither kowtows to the value of self-sacrifice to the greater good (defined by some group or ideology) nor does it worship at the altar of any self-achievement gained at the cost of others. Authenticity is owned by no collective. It raises no particular flag nor  favors any exclusive color.

Prisons are full of misdirected ones who have broken the laws of social norm. Monasteries, mountains, deserts, and sanctuaries of all sorts abound with eccentrics whose individuality is as fragile as a teacup. Many of these at most are members of religious cults or terrorist groups of one sort or the other, blinded by filters of truth and force fed by a strong-willed, charismatic and manipulative dictator.

All who seek to be a true individual must forge a path away from the crowd and along a way that follows the hidden stream, with no bars to hold them captive nor cloister of comfort for their return.

Walt Whitman achieved this feat of feats, this challenge of challenges. Some of those who “know” and who can see deeper realities have stated emphatically that this human being was a highly advanced soul.

Walt Whitman brief bio— by Neale Lundgren

Walter “Walt” Whitman (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) was an American mystic- poet, essayist and journalist. He maintains an emblem of honor  that cannot be tarnished or erased by the critic who has not ventured into the wild territory that exists beyond the academic, church, town, state, or federal halls.

Excerpt From Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

I tramp a perpetual journey, (come listen all!)

My signs are a rainproof coat, good shoes, and a staff cut from the woods,

No friend of mine takes his ease in my chair,

I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,

I lead no man to a dinner table, library, exchange,

But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,

My left hand hooking you round the waist,

My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.

Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,

You must travel it for yourself.

It is not far, it is within reach,

Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,

Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

  • Samantha Bennett
    Posted at 15:15h, 05 September Reply

    I agree with you that becoming authentic isn’t about narcissism at all. As you say, it is about courage and will. Do you have the courage to act in accordance with your beliefs on a daily basis? I am an instructional coach in k-12 schools, and most of my coaching is around this issue. There isn’t a teacher on the planet that wakes up in the morning and says, “I can’t wait to help my students pass the state test today!” Teachers’ beliefs around the purpose of education are myriad, but most have to do with the creation of happy, healthy, giving, loving, productive, community-minded human beings who have lives full of meaning and purpose. Now THAT is a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and that takes a constant mindfulness of being authentic with students – in our tone, in our behavior, in the time we give students to read, write, and talk and in the tasks we assign for them to do. Combating the “culture of fear” that pervades our lives, in many different professions is essential, and it will take all of us to be mindful and “authentic” every minute of every day to fight the good fight to make the world a better place.

  • David Bankston
    Posted at 00:59h, 06 September Reply

    When I think of authentic, I think of Don Miguel Ruiz when he speaks of becoming “wild” again, like we all were before we became overly socialized. Perhaps this is what Whitman was trying to achieve for himself.

    I’m not sure when the verses above were written, but he did continue to revise that work for many years. This being said, I’m not sure that he necessarily thought of himself as a “fully realized” authentic being, but that he sought to become one.

    I just read some of Whitman’s autobiography, “Specimen Days,” which is quite beautiful. I am not that well-versed in his poetry except for some of the verses in a larger poem about the ferry from Brooklyn to Manhattan, which are ecstatic and fabulous.

    But since reading “Specimen Days” and specifically about Walt Whitman’s service in the hospitals during the Civil War; sitting with the dying and horribly wounded, writing letters home for those who couldn’t write, giving the broken soldiers little gifts and money. It makes me think of Meher Baba’s “Mastery In Servitude.” Maybe Walt earned some “authenticity” through acts of kindness and trying to ease the suffering of others.

    The Whitman verses above probably influenced, Robert Louis Stevenson’s

    “The Vagabond”
    Give to me the life I love,
    Let the lave go by me,
    Give the jolly heaven above
    And the byway nigh me.
    Bed in the bush with stars to see,
    Bread I dip in the river –
    There’s the life for a man like me,
    There’s the life for ever.

    Let the blow fall soon or late,
    Let what will be o’er me;
    Give the face of earth around
    And the road before me.
    Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
    Nor a friend to know me;
    All I seek, the heaven above
    And the road below me.

    Thanks Neale for speaking about my friend, Walt Whitman.

  • sam broussard
    Posted at 15:02h, 23 September Reply

    My band has been accused of inauthenticity because we sing in French, which is not the language we grew up speaking.The accusation is concept abuse. Actors and singers stand inside the shoes of others – which is their job – until they write their own words. And until they do, they inhabit the conflicts of other people – a compassionate endeavor if ever there was one. Thus the liberalism, the collectivism rampant in artists. “We’re all in this together,” and if you don’t think so, try living as if we’re not. You’ll be branded a narcissist. Maybe narcissism is an over-outgrowth of the self-reflection allowed when every minute isn’t spent on survival; time for ingrowth. Too much of it and you’re standing still, not to mention being boring to the others who aren’t noticed by the narcissist, damn. It’s possible to think too much about this and become a hamster on a wheel pondering his own cheek pouches. Maybe the foundation for mental health is realizing that there are other people in the room.

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