Author Topic: Cellar Scribblings  (Read 3121703 times)

Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16070 on: April 05, 2019, 08:53:49 am »
No, I don't believe that it is always possible for a person in their 60s or older to start to love another person and want to join with them. The reason I don't believe that is because of the thinking in your third sentence. If a person firmly rejects the idea or possibility, then it is impossible for it to happen.

Just as it's always at least somewhat possible to win a lottery (chances >0) unless you never buy a ticket, in which case it is impossible. And I think the love odds are slightly better than the lottery odds. Heck, people start love affairs in senior residences!


Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16071 on: April 05, 2019, 08:55:53 am »
I've heard that Unitarians read more from Walt Whitman than they do from the Bible. Just sayin.'  ;D

It's possible you heard that from me, as I say it all the time, including here.  8) :laugh:


Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16072 on: April 05, 2019, 09:32:56 am »
I've heard that Unitarians read more from Walt Whitman than they do from the Bible. Just sayin.'  ;D

It's possible you heard that from me, as I say it all the time, including here.  8) :laugh:

 :laugh: Entirely posible!  :laugh:

Why is it that Unitarians are so fascinated by a (presumably gay) poet who's been dead for 127 years?

Is Leaves of Grass one of those classics--a book everybody talks about but nobody reads?  ;D

Incidentally, a visit to Whitman's home in Camden, New Jersey, and a copy of Leaves of Grass are important plot points in the novel Eddie and the Cruisers (though not in the movie), but as a reader of the novel I really don't get why or how the visit and Leaves of Grass connect with the event they are supposed to inspire. Maybe if I read Leaves of Grass. ...
« Last Edit: April 05, 2019, 11:47:12 am by Jeff Wrangler »
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16073 on: April 05, 2019, 12:21:31 pm »
Why is it that Unitarians are so fascinated by a (presumably gay) poet who's been dead for 127 years?

Is his gayness in doubt? I thought that was pretty much established.

I don't know the Unitarian church well enough to say for sure, but I would guess it's because he writes about large philosophical and metaphysical issues in an non-rhyming, semi-abstract, yet generally upbeat and positive way. Poets with rhyming lines or other more formal structures might sound corny. Sylvia Plath would scare people out of the church. And while hopefully Unitarians update their canon from time to time and include more modern writing (and by women and writers of color) Whitman's age and appearance convey gravitas.

Maybe long gray beards evoke a comforting subconscious image of God.  :laugh:

Quote
Is Leaves of Grass one of those classics--a book everybody talks about but nobody reads?  ;D

I have a copy and have read and liked a couple of things but I'll admit I haven't read it cover to cover. I'm not great with poetry.



Offline Front-Ranger

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16074 on: April 05, 2019, 01:34:50 pm »

I don't know the Unitarian church well enough to say for sure, but I would guess it's because he writes about large philosophical and metaphysical issues in an non-rhyming, semi-abstract, yet generally upbeat and positive way. Poets with rhyming lines or other more formal structures might sound corny. Sylvia Plath would scare people out of the church.

Church is the one place where you can talk and think about things that are downbeat like death and why bad things happen. At least, in my church.
Too much to do. . .I don't have time to get old!

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16075 on: April 05, 2019, 01:37:54 pm »
Is his gayness in doubt? I thought that was pretty much established.

I don't think it's in doubt, but I gather from the Wikipedia article about him (which I read very quickly because I'm at work), that biographers have argued about that. But I'm also finding that as I grow older, I'm becoming even more unwilling than previously to assign that term to anyone who lived before the twentieth century (Whitman died in 1892) unless the evidence is overwhelming, as it is, say, for Oscar Wilde.

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Sylvia Plath would scare people out of the church.

From what I've read about her, I wouldn't be surprised if she'd scare anybody.  :laugh:

"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16076 on: April 05, 2019, 02:17:31 pm »
Church is the one place where you can talk and think about things that are downbeat like death and why bad things happen. At least, in my church.

Well, two responses:

1) I didn't mean to say Whitman never took on challenging or dark topics and only wrote about rainbows and unicorns. For example, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," written in 1865, was about mourning Lincoln's death. Here's a good Wikpedia description:

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"The poem, written in free verse in 206 lines, uses many of the literary techniques associated with the pastoral elegy. It was written in the summer of 1865 during a period of profound national mourning in the aftermath of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Despite the poem being an elegy to the fallen president, Whitman neither mentions Lincoln by name nor discusses the circumstances of his death. Instead, Whitman uses a series of rural and natural imagery including the symbols of the lilacs, a drooping star in the western sky (Venus), and the hermit thrush, and employs the traditional progression of the pastoral elegy in moving from grief toward an acceptance and knowledge of death. The poem also addresses the pity of war through imagery vaguely referencing the American Civil War (1861–1865) which ended only days before the assassination.

And here are the first few lines:

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.


Again, I'm not familiar enough with Whitman or even other poets to make sweeping generalizations, but I was comparing him less to traditional church services than I was to poets who might be less appropriate than Whitman for church quotation. For example, here's a passage from Sylvia Path's "Daddy":

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.


Probably not ideal sermon content.

2) It's possible that Whitman, like traditional church services, share an inclination to explore dark or downbeat subjects but emerge with relatively encouraging, comforting, upbeat answers. Not upbeat in the false happy-face sense, more like upbeat as opposed to a total downer.

I mean, I don't know how your church goes about it, but I've never heard a pastor saying, "If you were wondering about death, here's the stark reality: it's simply the end of existence -- your consciousness ceases to experience any awareness after you die and that's the end of you." Or, "If you're wondering why bad things happen, the answer is that it's completely random because there's no fairness or order to life in the universe and there's no controlling figure who cares what happens to any particular individual or group."

Many churches have traditionally provided semi-comforting answers to troubling questions: When you die you go to Heaven. Bad things happen because the Lord works in mysterious ways but He has His reasons."

I don't know Whitman well enough to say whether he does or doesn't ever do that. But I think in his free-verse abstract way, he takes those big subjects to a different level that people might find wise or comforting, as they do a typical Christian sermon.


P.S. After posting that, I thought about how Robert Frost might fit in. In my again limited knowledge, he does take on big subjects. But in his case, it's often through subtle metaphors like what the woods that are lovely, dark and deep symbolize. Do people sitting in the pews -- trying to get their kids to sit still or thinking about the solo performance they're doing in a few minutes -- take the time to figure out the metaphors?

I've often read that Frost's "The Road Not Taken" is the most widely misunderstood poem in history. And that's by people who are giving it their full attention!







Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16077 on: April 05, 2019, 02:25:54 pm »
I don't think it's in doubt, but I gather from the Wikipedia article about him (which I read very quickly because I'm at work), that biographers have argued about that. But I'm also finding that as I grow older, I'm becoming even more unwilling than previously to assign that term to anyone who lived before the twentieth century (Whitman died in 1892) unless the evidence is overwhelming, as it is, say, for Oscar Wilde.

I'm not sure what the evidence is in Whitman's case. In those days obviously it wasn't much talked about or openly practiced. But people were still gay, so if there's strong enough reason I'm inclined to go with it. Remember the historian who argued that Lincoln was gay because of his friendship with that guy -- deeply affectionate letters, bed sharing? As I recall there were solid arguments against it (like, people often shared beds back then) so while I don't assume Lincoln was gay I don't entirely rule it out.

I've probably told you that when I toured Louisa May Alcott's house a few years ago I emerged pretty sure that she was a lesbian. But as far as I know, that topic hasn't been deeply examined. Paul may know more about that, due to geographical proximity.



Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16078 on: April 06, 2019, 10:44:39 pm »

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.


That line strikes me as an odd thing to say about a deceased President, even an assassinated one.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline serious crayons

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Re: Cellar Scribblings
« Reply #16079 on: April 07, 2019, 11:38:48 am »
That line strikes me as an odd thing to say about a deceased President, even an assassinated one.

Maybe Whitman decided "And thought of the late president of the United States whom I voted for both times" didn't have quite the right rhythm.  :laugh:

But I can imagine it might have been true. People who hated Lincoln really hated him, so it seems possible that at least some of the people who liked him went so far as to love him. It's also possible "love" was used more loosely then, not as connected to romantic feelings, just as two men could share a bed.

But here's another good reason to read Whitman in a church. Parishioners can fill in their own "him," and it can be Jesus if they like. Or anyone.