Looking at and being in the presence of an extraordinary work of art about men by Melbourne artist John Lawry from Wodonga, my first reaction was to channel Walt Whitman.
This micro-movie and talking with John has subsequently lead me to start re-reading the works of Publius Vergilius Maro (a.k.a Virgil, the great Roman epic and bucolic poet) which I studied at Norwood High School and Melbourne University in the 1970’s and continued reading and rereading in the 1980’s.
Where will this all lead me now?
I dont know.
But one thing is certain.
When you have genuine freedom of speech, you dont always know where it will take you.
Geoff Fox, (YawpMan ?) 8th August, 2020, Terra Nullius
The American Revolution began on this day 245 years ago.
The great gift to the world of this revolution is a profound commitment to freedom.
As Walt Whitman put it: “What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and own no superior?”
Whitman’s vision was was not of a totally anarchic freedom but of a Mighty Union: he believed that shallow people “consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint. The wise see in it, on the contrary, the potent Law of Laws.”
To this very day the British culture, which the American revolution rejected, has in it a cringing fear of dictatorial authority which America cannot stomache.
Neither can I.
When Boris Johnson called on his people to embrace Herd Immunity, he was shouted down and he then retreated.
I offer an arrangement of the thoughts of Walt Whitman for reflection at a very strange time for the people of this world.
“O public road …….. you express me better than I can express myself.” ……. “My words itch at your ears till you understand them ……”
Whitman did not reject the place of science but he also saw: “……. the fossil theology of the mythic – materialistic, superstitious, untaught and credulous, fable-loving, primitive ages of humanity.”
“And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles …….”
……. “From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines.”
……. “In the faces of men and women, I see God.”
…… “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.”
……. “I exist as I am, that is enough,”
When Walt wrote, “I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” did he foreshadow POTUS 45’s reinvention of presidential communication to the people via Twitter? And then some of the world’s reactions to Trump …… “I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.”
In this time of a terrified rush to isolation, is it more important than ever for America to remember these words: …….. “TO the States or any one of them, or any city of the States, Resist much, obey little, Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth, ever after-ward resumes its liberty.”
“Unscrew the locks from the doors ! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs !”
“……. we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.”
Two great men died on this day, the 26th of March.
Ludwig Beethooven in 1827 and Walt Whitman in 1892.
Compare their wisdom:
Both could be elitist rebels.
Beethoven wrote: “Prince, what you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself.There are and always will be thousands of princes, but there is only one Beethoven!”
Compare this with the supremely democratic and self-transcendent self-confidence of the author of Song Of Myself:
“I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
Beethooven: “I will take fate by the throat; it will never bend me completely to its will.”
What the musician felt within himself, the poet articulated for all: “There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.”
So after Beethoven could say: “A great poet is the most precious jewel of a nation.”, democratic Whitman could explain: “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.”