AG: So to Walt Whitman “When I Read The Book” – so this is some statement of his opening.. (I’m reading from Whitman now, from the Modern Library (edition) of Leaves of Grass, page (twenty) eight – “When I read the book, the biography famous/ And is this, then, (said I), what the author calls a man’s life?/ And so will some one, when I am dead and gone, write my life?/ (As if any man really knew aught of my life;/ Why, even I myself, I often think, know little or nothing of my real life;/Only a few hints – a few diffused, faint clues and indirections,/I seek, for my own use, to trace out here.)
Well, now, I’m choosing this as a little progression from (William Carlos) Williams’ clear-seeing detail. He’s working with ordinary mind, also, Whitman. He’s willing to accept he doesn’t know anything about his own life – that emptiness. That’s his version of sunyata – in relation to his own ego, his own nature, his own solidification, and yet, at the same time, what can you work with but the few hints, few solid thoughts, few direct perceptions. So he’s starting, beginning where I am, with the unborn, so to speak, with the unborn mystery of my own life (unborn, in the sense that you can’t trace its roots, not that it isn’t there, just that you don’t know where it began – like the universe).
“Only a few hints – a few diffused, faint clues..” – So it’s like Williams saying, “I’m settling for the raw material. No, I’m not interested in the finished product . It’s only in “isolate flecks” that something is given off” – some little flashes of perception, some few moments of direct clarity – (being) willing to work with those moments, without bullshit. Then, the moments of non-aggressive, non-bullshit, non-assertive, direct, clear seeing. So that’s, in a sense, Whitman’s ambition.
And then, somewhat like the imperturbable nature of mind observing its own projections but never entangled in them,, if you have the advantage of meditative practice – these (are) among Whitman’s salutations to the reader and introductions to the reader toward his state of mind – “Me Imperturbe” – (I-M-P-E-R-T-U-R-B-E, or “Me Imperturb” – but I imagine it’s some Europeanism – “Me Imperturbe” (Mee Impurturbee) “Me Imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature/ Master of all, or mistress of all – aplomb in the midst of irrational things,/ Imbued as they – passive , receptive, silent as they/ Finding my occupation, poverty, notoriety, foibles, crimes, less important than I thought/ Me toward the Mexican Sea or in the Mannahatta, or the Tennessee, or far north or inland,/ A river man, or a man of the woods,or of any farm-life in These States, or of the coast, or the lakes, or Kanada” – [K-A-N-A-D-A] – “Me, wherever life is lived, O to be self-balanced for contingencies !/ O to confront night, storms, hunger, ridicule, accidents, rebuffs, as the trees and animals do.” – Well, he’s pointing to a quality of imperturbable mind, or imperturbable self-nature, which, by now, in this course, or some course, I hope we have begun to develop as part of our own mind, part of our own open nature. So that’s somewhat, you might say, the Mahayana core of the fellow. And then for a bodhisattva statement, the famous one – “Poets To Come” – “Poets to come!, orators, singers, musicians to come!/ Not to-day is to justify me, and answer what I am for/But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known/ Arouse! Arouse – for you must justify me – you must answer./ I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,/ I but advance a moment, only to wheel and hurry back into the darkness/ I am a man who, sauntering along, without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you/ and then averts his face,/ Leaving it to you to prove and define it/ Expecting the main things from you.”So that’s precisely what we’re about right at this moment – (in the position) of approving and defining” his hints, scientifically, and with a full experience of a hundred years of apocalyptic history, examining the nature of his tolerance, mellowness, open mind, negative capability, empathy and spaciousness, – where it comes from, how we can attain it, how is it characteristic of all poetry? and how it’s a characteristic of human mind – using, in this case, the definitions of meditation.
[Audio for the above may be heard here, starting at approximately fifty-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in]