Sunday, January 07, 2007

Whitman's Wit

One of my other reading projects lately is a biography/tribute by the author Helen Nearing, written primarily about life with her late husband, the activist & writer, Scott Nearing. The book is entitled Loving and Leaving the Good Life, a beautiful recollection of her husband's passion for life. In the fourth chapter, she quotes the preface to Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. For the most part, I found this passage to be wise and well-written and I wanted to share it here:

Life is a school, exactly adapted to your lesson.
Your present life is only a chapter out of the middle of a book.
You have written previous chapters and you will write later ones.
You are your own author.

The love of one's country is a natural thing. But why stop at the

So think as if your every thought were to be etched in fire upon
the sky for all and everyone to see. And so in truth it is.

So speak as if the world entire were but a single ear intent on
hearing what you say. And so in truth it is.

So do as if your every deed were to recoil upon your head. And
so in truth it does.

So live as if your God himself had need of you, his life to live.
And so in truth He does.

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 con-
cerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take your hat off to nothing known or unknown or to any man
or number of men, go freely with the 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...


Shelby said...

I love that book! I love all the Nearing's books, actually. I used to work at Chelsea Green and they published several Nearing titles. I wish I'd been able to meet them...

nonsequitur said...

You obviously have good taste ;-p. I'm only 6 chapters in, but thus far I am enjoying it too :). After I finish this one, I would like to start reading the other books that they've had published. I really identify with their main focus.