walk on

‘Under Niagara, the cataract falling like a veil over my countenance;
Upon a door-step … upon the horse-block of hard wood outside,
Upon the race-course, or enjoying picnics or a good game of
     base-ball,
At he-festivals with blackguard jibes and ironical license and bull-
     dances and drinking and laughter’.*

Walt Whitman was a walker, a wanderer.  There’s seems to be no limit or boundary to where he goes and what he sees during his lifetime.  In his poem Leaves of Grass, Whitman continues to show us what he is seeing:

‘At the cider-mill, tasting the sweet of the brown sqush … sucking the
     juice through a straw,
At apple-peelings, wanting kisses for all the red fruit I find,
At musters and beach-parties and friendly bees and hustings and
     house-raisings’.*

On and on Whitman walks, his short descriptions taking us into numerous new worlds:

‘By the cot in the hospital reaching lemonade to a feverish patient,
By the coffined corpse when all is still, examining with a candle;
Voyaging to every port to dicker and adventure’.*

He appears  not always to be in a place of wonder:

‘Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle as any,
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him’.*

Whitman recovers, though, finding his way again:

‘Solitary at midnight in my back yard, my thoughts gone from me
     a long while,
Walking the old hills of Judea with the beautiful gentle god by my
     side;
Speeding through space … speeding through heaven and the stars,
Speeding amid the seven satellites and the broad ring and the diame-
     ter of eighty thousand miles,
Speeding with tailed meteors … throwing fire-balls like the rest,
Carrying the crescent child that carries its own full mother in its belly,
Storming enjoying planning loving cautioning,
Backing and filling, appearing and disappearing,
I tread day and night such roads.’*

This path before me seems to have no end.  I walk it and, like Whitman, I stumble, but the path is kind, giving me the time and grace I need to stand again and start to walk once more.  Andy Raine reflects how not everyone see the path this way:

“Too many people, guilt-stricken, wounded,
walk in regret,
feeling bad about failing,
apologise even for breathing.”**

Who told them that they couldn’t start over?

I reread these words from Daniel Kahneman on how we struggle to cross thresholds:

‘As in the case of lines, you are likely to stop where you are no longer sure you should go further – at the edge of the region of uncertainty.’^

But it is in these regions of uncertainty, where the continuing path takes, that the presently unimaginable can happen.  If we stop, building our cities, and naming them “Destination,” then we will never know what can be.  Kahneman’s words help me see this path is an expression of the infinite game: it is for as many as possible to travel for as long as possible, and when something threatens to stop people in their tracks we invent new ways of walking, of keeping going.  Seth Godin encourages:

‘Don’t be trapped into accepting shame from someone who is trying to keep you from doing something you have every right to do.’^^

The road or path or way we follow is full of questions and possibilities, and, somewhere between, a quest.

It’s everyone’s road.

‘I fly the flight of the fluid and swallowing soul,
My course runs below the soundings of plummets.

I help myself to material and immaterial,
No guard can shut me off, no law can prevent me.’*

(*From Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.)
(**Andy Raine, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(^From Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.)
(^^From Seth Godin’s blog: Common traps, worth avoiding.)

 

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