For anyone who has not read Walt Whitman I certainly encourage you to do so, especially “Song of Myself”, which is my favorite of his works. I think that “Song of Myself” is something that everyone can relate to because it encompasses such a wide range of topics and emotions. Ralph Waldo Emerson applauded Whitman for his work because he was able to encompass such emotion and acceptance within the work.
Want to hear about nudity? Done. Old people? Done. Sex? It’s in there. Whitman’s own overconfidence? Check. Nothing was off the table.
The diversity of his topics, and the boldness in which he discusses them is rather astonishing the first time reading “Song of Myself”, but Whitman has a purpose. He encouraged each person to live up to their own potential, and not worry so much about the success of others.
“I resist any thing better than my own diversity,
Breathe the air but leave plenty after me,
And am not stuck up, and am in my place.”
Whitman’s claim to be diverse was prominent within his life time, but it still holds true to our society today. With the bombardment of social media telling us how to think, what to wear, and how to feel, it is sometime difficult to separate how we really feel, with what society wants us to feel. That said, we do have an astonishingly large amount of diversity compared to what Whitman faced when he first published “Song of Myself” in the 19th century. I think he would be proud of the movements we have made towards acceptance of thoughts and beliefs not our own, but I think he would also see that there is still much to do.
And that starts with us. By accepting our own diversity we free ourselves to being open to other ways of thinking. Whitman understood this, and he pushed this type of thinking within “Song of Myself”. We must celebrate our selves, and sing ourselves, so that we can come to accept who we are, and accept the diversity within the world around us.
What is greater than our diversity? We have molded the world into a myriad of cultures and beliefs that sometime have trouble seeing eye to eye, but if we were all the same where would the wonder be about learning new things? What would be the point of studying new cultures and languages if we new everything right from the beginning. Our diversity opens new doors every day, and to every new generation. So, in siding with Whitman’s “hippie” sentiments, it is time to accept our differences, celebrate ourselves, and sing it to the world, because nothing could be better than accepting each other for our differences, and seeing the gift that it has the potential to be.
Photo Courtesy of: www.english.illinois.edu