the village indolent

I finished reading “Songs of Grass” by Whitman this morning. It is a beautiful poem. An all encompassing vision of humanity (and especially America), it ends where it begins with simple images of grass.

Grass that grows from the dead body of the poet that feeds us.

“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.”

from section 52 of “Leaves of Grass”

Earlier images in poem linger in my mind.

Grass as “the handkerchief of the Lord…”

as “the beautiful uncut hair of graves….”

from section 6 of “Leaves of Grass”

A section in The Gift by Hyde jumped out at me this morning as well.

I think about the way I have chosen to live and how it contrasts and even sometimes troubles the people around me (excepting of course those that love me).

“The village indolent appears whenever the will to work devours necessary leisure…”

Writing about Whitman and his imagined American type, Hyde touches on something that is dear to me…. necessary leisure.

Necessary leisure appears “whenever farmers in the Midwest start plowing at night or cutting down the groves around their homes so as to plant soybeans right up to the windows.”

“Whitman’s idle man stands for the hidden spirit without which no one gets anything from trade. He refuses to anything but enjoy the fruits of commerce.  He eats up all the profits. The harder they work, the lazier he gets.

The more money they reinvest in the company, the more he squanders his inheritance. The village indolent, like the religious mendicant, has riches that cannot be distinguished from his poverty. The ‘poverty’ of the mystics is a not an absence of material objects; it consists, rather, in breaking down the habit of resting in, or taking seriously, things that are less than God. ‘ “Blessed are the poor” is a psychological law,” says the poet Theodore Roethke, ”it’s the business of Lady Poverty to confer on her lovers the freedom of the universe.” ‘

This leads me to another book I have been reading in.

The Quantum and the Lotus is literally a dialogue between an astrophysicist (Trinh Xuan Thuan) and a Buddhist monk (Matthieu Ricard). Both are Buddhists. Both are scientists.

I am drawn to the Buddhist ideas about egoism and altruism. They seem to describe a Whitman like poverty of spirit (Blessed are the poor, again). The God of Whitman and Buddhism is a God I can acknowledge and believe in. It swells and encompasses other ideas of religion.

“If our aim is to be profoundly satisfied with our existence, then some things are essential and others can easily be dispensed with. Buddhism’s way of looking at the world allows us to draw up a priority list covering our goals and activities, and thus take control of our lives. Its analysis of the mechanisms of happiness and suffering clearly shows the divergent results of egoism versus altruism.”

Mattieu Ricard in The Quantum and the Lotus

” … whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud.”

Whitman again, section 48 of Song of Myself.

As so often happens I find my divergent reading converging. Authors chatter on about the same ideas and subjects. I find this very satisfying and keeps me thinking.

All this seriousness leads me to further serendipity. I read for two hours last night in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

His characters began discussing Herodotus…even to the point of calling him the “Father of Lies.”  Somewhere in the past few days I read the same quote in an article or book referring to a series of historians, Herodutus, Gibbons and another one. The source escapes me this morning, but not the meaning.

I quite like the way Gaiman humanizes and immortalizes gods of differing traditions wandering around the US with his character, Shadow. Fun reading.

Odin is called Wednesday in Gaiman’s novel. “Wednesday.Danish, Dansk Onsdag, (“Ons-dag” = Odens/Odins dag/day” link to source of this etymology. )


Rushdie Wins Facebook Fight Over Identity –

The part I like best about this article is Rushdie (unconsciously?) quoting Talking Heads: “Give me back my name.”

There’s a word for it
And words don’t mean a thing
There’s name for it
And names make all the difference in the world
Some things can never be spoken
Some things cannot be pronounced
That word does not exist in any language
It will never be uttered by a human mouth
Let X make a statement
Let breath pass through those cracked lips
That man was my hero
And now that word has been taken from us
Some things can never be spoken
Some things cannot be pronounced
That word does not exist in any language
It will never be uttered by a human mouth

Give me back my name
Give me back my name
Something has been changed in my life
Something has been changed in my life
Something must be returned to us
Something must me returned to us


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