By Andrew E., 10th Grade
Walt Whitman, one of the greatest American poets, teemed with wisdom on life. The poems he left behind are rich with advice, and his work, Leaves of Grass, is a telling example. In section 46 of “Song of Myself,” he stresses that we must strive to seek out every experience that life offers, and we must aim to be free while we embark on our own journeys, in which we create our own stories and adventures.
According to Whitman, experience is a vital part of living. Without it we are only technically living, but just barely. Experience adds color, richness, and meaning to everything we do and makes life enjoyable. Whitman himself has “the best of time and space” (79). In other words, he makes the most of the time he’s given and the place in which that time exists. He seeks out every single experience that makes life worthwhile during his life in youthful America. Like Whitman, we should make the most of our time and enjoy our lives to the fullest. In the end, someone who’s experienced so much has no regrets, for he hasn’t missed out on anything great and he’s learned so much from all that he’s done. He is satisfied with all the memories of past adventures and can say that he’s truly lived his life.
In his journey from one experience to another, Whitman was never grounded, for he states, “I have no chair, nor church, nor philosophy” (80). He truly was on a perpetual journey, for he never sat down to rest for too long, wasn’t tied to the beliefs of others, and never allowed any ideology to limit him. Whitman continues, “I lead no man to a dinner-table or library or exchange”(80). Not only had he no chair, but also no town in which any chair or home would exist. He never had a library to depend on as a source of information and ideas, and he never depended on a store for any sort of resource. Whitman relied not on civilization but himself only for information, ideas, beliefs, and as a result was never inhibited from travel and experience. He was free to go anywhere and live life as he wanted. Whitman is exemplary of how we should hold ourselves. From him we can learn the lesson of independence and freedom. We must never be grounded, or else we don’t experience life and we are constantly held back from all of our desired adventures in life. Only when we are ungrounded and free can we continue on our own perpetual journeys.
Whitman leads us away from civilization and asks us to venture upon metaphorical grassy knoll. He points us in the direction of adventure, but that’s all he does. He doesn’t guide us, nor does he carry us through it; instead, he says, “Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you, you must travel it for yourself”(80). A bit cliche? Yes, but it’s cliche for a reason. One cannot just put the lives of others ahead of his own and expect to live that way. We must go see the world for ourselves instead of viewing it on a screen or through the tales of others.
It is rather apparent that Whitman was a wise man. As he might say, his wisdom comes from having experienced life. He was living proof of his own advice, for he was one who truly lived life to the fullest, never allowing himself to be grounded by those around him. In that way he was a very independent man, hence the reason why he was so inspiringly satisfied.