Old Whitman and me just singing
by Andrew Taggart
Recently old Walt Whitman spoke to me. He said of himself, singing a Song of Myself:Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female, For me those that have been boys and that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,
For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the
mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
For me children and the begetters of children. Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be
He said all of this of himself. He said it of himself and spoke it to me. He and I undraped. We could not be shaken away.
My philosophical life is like speaking in different keys. I speak to old men and young women; to mathematicians and aestheticians; to businessmen and entrepreneurs; to daydreamers and logical plotters; to all of these and to many others. I speak to each in the right key, matching my voice to hers so that we can sing the same tune. Do we joke? Sometimes we do and with some I do and with those some often in the right way–giddy or wry, slapstick or spry. Have I been earnest from the first with others? I have, yes, I have. I have been wooden and earthy, rooted and mushroomy, browed and solemn. I have been the sweetheart and the old maid. I have been them both.
I crave the rigor from one conversation partner as much as the whimsicality of another. I hunger for the mystical as much as the quotidian, the robin’s egg and the set of all sets. I laugh and sigh and cry during the same conversation and in subsequent. To each, I sing with words we know. To none do I sing in or of discord; toward none sew discord; with none create distance save by mistake.
In any day, on every day, I want men and women, hard and soft, Scandinavian and Italian, Lars Van Trier and Charlie Chaplin, blood and earring waterfalls. Let me have the mathematical, the lyrical, the dialogical, the whimsical, the silly, the childlike, the loving, the joshing, the elliptical, the enigmatic, the exhortative. Let me have, let me have, but let me have it all.