On life and its vagaries

None shall escape me

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(The things I write are not ‘thought work’. They are just a parody of things I find interesting at that point of time. Sublimities, if there are any, are not brought in to educate. They only ‘happen’ to fill blank spaces.  So seeking purpose, design, and even lucidity or linearity in expressive elements may not very reasonable with them. I really don’t bother with such niceties)

None shall escape me

What has Walt Whitman to do with me and the kind of things I talk of? Perhaps nothing and perhaps everything.

I had read his Leaves of Grass when I was still in the teens and had thought poetry should be like that, all encompassing, all embracing, leaving nothing out and holding everything together whether good or bad. It was a little volume that I found in that ancient village library.  A hard cover edition bound in a dark green cloth cover. The sides were dipped in gold. The lettering on the covers was also of a dull and pleasant gold. It had beautiful engravings on the cover. It was a small book but weighed a ton. I had to brave the DDT sprayed inside the shelves to keep moths away to locate it and take it home.

I never knew who he was and what his role was in ushering in a new genre of poetry altogether. I don’t also remember now whether there were any prefaces or introductory remarks before the poems began. I then had this irresistible urge to get in to the real meat first and read the other things later.  Like everyone else perhaps I had also read Milton and a little Shakespeare by then. I had liked Milton.  He was majestic. I must say I never thought I would ever be attempting to write poetry in my life at that time.

I had always held (and still hold) poetry in awe.  My introduction to poets of my language had made it certain that I would not be writing anything in that line. They were great sticklers for form and rhyme and the subtle expressive element in poetry (There is a separate science called Dwani (suggestion) in my land. They believed that what is suggested is more important than what is actually said.  They would probably prefer Keats over Shelly all the time. But I must say I like the fantastic imagery of Shelly more).

Anyway, reading Whitman was a new experience for me, and he has not stopped delighting me ever since. I felt suddenly free and released from the maze of technique I was caught in with the other poets.  His poetry felt like an ocean on the move. Frothing, seething, storming, going calm for a moment, then again invading all shores, running over entire landscapes, lashing up in giant waves, yet seemingly without apparent rhyme or reason but all through it holding on to this primary fact about life – The perennial question of the divided and the whole. And he comes behind the whole every single time:

“I have the idea of all, and am all, and believe in all;

I believe materialism is true, and spiritualism is true-I reject no part”

This interested me.

I know, this approach of Whitman could possibly be called a dualistic one, where one accepts certain percepts from two different streams of thought to resolve the confusion that may be within the mind -A course looked down upon in philosophical circles. But I believe Whitman intuitively realized that “the world is all, that is the case” and nothing could be excluded from it. It’s a very simple and straightforward approach to life.

Either everything that we experience is the part of reality or there are several realities. This second position, even if it is possible, is untenable to the seeker.  If there is such a jumble out there, there is no point in seeking anything. We need something firm under us.  And interestingly certain among the human race   find it too. It is the same as finding the truth for everyone else. They then become sure like Whitman:

“None shall escape me, and none shall wish to escape me.

I bring what you much need, yet always have”

May be truth can’t be spoken in clearer terms than that. It recalls the words of the seers of all time to mind. That ‘me’ of his could not be not something individual, it goes beyond that into the realm of unity. You can only say so after you have experienced it at least once. He stresses this further:

“There is something that comes home to one now and perpetually;”

And he was so sure of this that he goes on to say in one of the most beautiful stanzas that I have seen. (I am resisting the temptation to quote it in full)

“It is not what is printed, preached, discussed, it eludes discussion and print

It is not to be put in a book-its not in this book”

From this it is but only a little distance to:

“Where the words turn back

Where even the mind does not enter”

of the ancients.  May be he knew them, though the only book of such nature found in his room at that time was the Bible I think. But then again you don’t have to search far to find yourself as he further mentions:

“Will you seek afar off, you surely come back at last”

This struck a chord with me, especially since I had a leaning towards a form of monistic philosophy of life. I haven’t yet lost this belief, other than trying to further qualify it with my perception of the futility of our existence on the physical level. These two belief’s might appear contradictory, but they form a whole instead.

All this could be quite contrary to the spirit of this age, which stresses the multiple rather than the unitary.  Well then I am a bit old fashioned.


Written by Sam

January 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm

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