This is What You Shall Do

Philosophically, I like to think of myself as an empiricist. I remember vividly my introduction to the study’s ideals in a literature and philosophy class my freshman year of college.

And while empiricism often lends itself to intellectualism, there’s still a part of me that at least understands transcendentalist theories… which is one of the many reasons I love Walt Whitman. Another is his marvelous, inspired ability to write, to call to action, to illustrate an image or an ideal, to enchant, to pursue, to create.

read these leaves in the open air every season

The first printing of Leaves of Grass (and none of the subsequent printings) had a preface with the following quote:

“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

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