Copyright 2006 Tom Russell
Walt Whitman lived a life of wisdom and simplicity. Here is how a modern day wisdom seeker might interview the great 19th century poet, and his inspiring replies.
Q: I have always had a timid and apologetic attitude towards other people, which I dislike. I am encouraged by everything you say, but I am still what I am.
Walt Whitman: I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood; I see that the elementary laws never apologize.
Q: What kind of truth will supply inner liberty?
You have not known what you are, you have slumbered upon yourself all your life . . .Whoever you are! Claim your own.
Q: I want to walk towards inner newness, but it all seems so mysterious and difficult!
It is not far, it is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know.
Q: I wonder whether other people have the same timidity that I have regarding independence? I mean that it sometimes seems frightening to break out of the social net to stand all alone.
I exist as I am — that is enough; if no other in the world be aware, I sit content.
Q: Religions and philosophies teach that an enlightened man becomes his own law, which is truly right and moral, in contrast to man-made law. Is that what you mean by self-independence?
A heroic person walks at his ease through and out of that custom or precedent or authority that suits him not.
Q: The one word that characterizes me best of all is restlessness. I no sooner reach my desired destination than I want to roam to somewhere else. One minute I’m all excited over something and the next minute it bores me. What causes my dissatisfaction?
What do you suppose will satisfy the soul except to walk free and own no superior?
Q: I have suffered several severe losses lately, including that of someone very close to me. I know it does no good to feel sorry for myself, so I don’t fall into that trap. However, I would like to have the mystical explanation regarding personal loss.
Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost, no birth, identity, form — no object in the world, nor life, nor any visible thing; appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain. Ample are time and space — ample the fields of Nature.
Q: I have always felt inferior to other people. People who are famous or expert in even small ways make me feel worthless by comparison. This feeling now haunts me as I take up the task of self-discovery.
This is the meal equally set, this is the meat for natural hunger, it is for the wicked just the same as the righteous, I make appointment with all, I will not have a single person slighted or kept away.
Q: How might we more clearly see the necessity for following his new way?
Have the past struggles succeeded?
Q: If we uncover this spiritual gold, what changes will it make in the way we live?
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road. Healthy, free, the world before me . . . leading wherever I choose.
Q: Would it be correct to compare esoteric schooling with the school of our childhood, for example, by learning to spell short words we are qualified to work on longer ones?
Now understand me well — it is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary . . the road is before us! It is safe . . . I have tried it.
Q: This changes our psychic weather from cloudy to clear?
There are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
Q: That is the heroism we all need.
I know that they go towards the best — towards something great.
Q: This calls for a personal declaration of independence.
It is time to explain myself — let us stand up.
Q: So we need only to see what we already possess?
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune.
Q: If diversion fails, what succeeds?
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
Q: I wonder whether I have drawn a correct conclusion from all this? Do we really owe nothing to a sick society except personal maturity and decency?
I do not give lectures or a little charity, when I give I give myself.
This article demonstrates how spiritual wisdom is forever new. Its principles are timeless. It is as appropriate today as it was then. Growth blossoms as we increasingly connect with what already exists.