Meditation and Poetics – 50 (Walt Whitman (intro))



 [Walt Whitman (1819-1892)]

AG: So we move from there [Robert Creeley, William Carlos Williams, Vipassana “focus on detail of the physical world”] to some expansion. Okay, we’ve already got it focused. We’ve got microscopically fine precise detail, grounded. (We’ve) burnt away, to some extent, dependency on fantasy ( or, at least, even if we don’t want to work totally with that, at least we understand that theory..). Or – as (William Carlos) Williams said, “And resolve to dream no more”. Remember the beginning poem, “Thursday”?  – I have had my dream.. /and it has come to nothing, so that/I remain now carelessly/with feet planted on the ground/and look up at the sky -/feeling my clothes about me,/the weight of my body in my shoes,/the rim of my hat, air passing in and out/at my nose – and decide to dream no more.”

Well, obviously, it’s a joke. You can’t resolve to “dream no more” because thought is recurrent. Samsara, illusion, is eternal. Thought rises unborn. There’s nothing you can do about it, except recognize it, until it becomes more and more transparent. So it was a little bit of an overstatement on Williams’ part, that  “and decide to dream no more”, though it’s a typical move, a typical mental chess-move. I think almost everybody has had that experience of waking up to present time, saying, “I’m never going to get trapped in my illusions again”. (And so) instantly being trapped, by solidifying a thought.

Well, the background to this mindfulness, in America, is a larger mountain that is so large that, (as) I have said before, that it’s too big to be seen, which is the huge bulk of consciousness and work of Walt Whitman, which, perhaps, bulks even larger and encloses the snippy, sharper consciousness of the turn-of-the-century, or pre-dates it and prefigures it and encloses it, and, in a sense, is even more ample.
In Whitman, we’ll find what I would say is elements that you could term Mahayana, if we were defining the next move, mentally, as going out into space, with empathy and with… Using that clarity, the mind, unobstructed by fantasy, now penetrating outward into space with sympathy and compassion, because seeing clearly. So I would use Whitman as a major text for that.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately  twenty minutes in and continuing to approximately twenty-three minutes in]    


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *