A Not-too-long, Boring, but Encouraging Coffee Shop Story

I often do some writing and editing at several local coffee shops. There is something about the energy I get from being around other people, mostly strangers, that draws words out of me.

Most of my visits to those diner-style coffee shops are uneventful. Some, more eventful. Others, very profound. (Even if only in a subtle way)

Two days ago, I stopped by my favorite local haunt to spend an hour editing the final draft of my new book, read a bit, and get a few cups of java down in me. The place was nearly empty when I arrived. After 30 minutes, I was the only customer there.

As I edited, I heard the shift manager complaining to the cook about the state of some other employees who call in often, are late, or just no-call/no-shows. The two men commiserated a bit as they swept the floor, rolled utensils tightly in paper napkins,  and did other tasks. Also, the manager called some servers on the phone in an attempt to shore-up the schedule for the rest of the week. He was only partially successful it seemed.

Then, a young (maybe 16 or 17 year old) waitress showed up. As she was walking in, the manager met her at the door, motioning with his arms in an “I don’t need you here” fashion. She walked in anyway, asking what the deal was. He explained that she had called in with only minutes notice a few days prior, put the rest of that day’s workers in a bind, and that he was considering firing her. She attempted to smooth the situation over, but wasn’t successful and left. A few minutes later, she came back in with a middle-aged man and  both walked toward the manager. I thought to myself, “This may turn into a blow-out,” and readied my camera phone just in case a video-worthy event took place. I have seen too many things get out of hand over the years and I am a bit edgy when I see people possibly heading toward a serious contention. I figured this guy might be “dad” coming in to straighten the boss out on behalf of his daughter.

The man and the manager started talking about the situation… and I was wonderfully surprised. I am a sucker for civil conversation. I absolutely love engaging in respectful discourse, even if the participants don’t agree on a particular matter. Also, I so rarely observe disagreeing parties in person or on social media who are able to succinctly present their case, hear the other’s, discuss both sides, and then achieve an amicable resolution, respectfully disagree, or agree on something that was previously disagreed on. Beyond that, observing a person change his or her mind on a firmly held position in 2015 is nigh to seeing a unicorn at the park.

Due to my persuasions regarding discourse, I was very happy to observe the manager express his concerns about the server’s performance and reliability in a respectful way and with an even temper. Then, the father-figure apologized for the issues on behalf of the girl. He asked for a second chance for the girl and gave credibility to the manager’s concerns. Also, the girl assured the manager of her commitment to do better and genuinely gave heed to his concerns. After some more conversation and consideration, the manager allowed for a write-up rather than firing. He clearly shared his expectations, which were reasonable, and the consequences present if they were not met. All parties ended the conversation respectfully, amicably, having reached a common position, and asserting a common goal. Not one voice had even been raised through the whole parley. I had to pinch myself.

I know that was a boring, everyday type of story. But, there is a great lesson to be gained. That being, our abilities to deal with other people, have conflicts, argue, discourse, and find common ground (or not) are “everyday” skills. They aren’t just for a college debate class, the board room, marriage counseling, or when some aspect of a relationship breaks down. Those abilities are for the coffee shop, for Facebook threads, for our home, for our friends, and even for our enemies.

Witnessing that interaction between three strangers encouraged me. I personally hope to do as well the next time I have some type of disagreement. Fellow humans, we’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go. Pass the love on! 🙂

Here is a related TED talk by William Ury that I very much enjoy. If you have a spare 20 minutes, it would be worth your time.

-Luke

Another Black Man Given Impromptu Death Penalty By Police-COPS NEED BODY CAMS NOW!

I don’t even want to write a blog about this… I am sick of this “same story” playing out again and again in the USA: A random, innocent black man shot to death by police.

Thankfully, in this case, a civilian’s camera was running.

The footage speaks for itself:

Here is the Anderson Cooper discussion on the shooting:

The citizens of the USA are weary of unjustified shootings, beating, arrests, and murders of individuals by police. It happens to individuals of all ethnicities. Yet, it happens disproportionately to African Americans. Much of that situation is carried on the back of a failed “Drug War.” Though, as in the shooting at hand, you never know when being pulled over even for a taillight infraction that you will survive the interaction with cops. To the good cops out there, my hats off to you. This isn’t about you.  It is about the vicious, malevolent, and inhumane officers among you who take advantage of and hurt those who they have sworn to protect.

What is the answer? I’ll give you my opinion on what is the fastest way to make progress. I assert the the first major step is an immediate Executive Order by President Obama that all officers, unless undercover, must wear a functional body cam while on duty. Also, that a no tolerance clause for “my cam wasn’t working” be added. If an officer’s body cam “isn’t working” during a questionable situation or any situation where a citizen is injured, he/she will be put on appropriate leave and the situation investigated. If a 2nd situation happens, unpaid leave. If a 3rd, termination. Though, if any investigations lead to charges, then the law should run its course in those cases. Of course, in my perfect world scenario, it would still take time for police departments to order body cams and train officers to use them. Due to that, a reasonable time limit would need to be included in the Order.

I am not a huge fan of Executive Orders. But, we are in a position where the red-tape must be sliced through post haste for the protection of the populace at large from its “protectors.” Executive Orders have been used for all kinds of things. Obama might as well use one in the best interest of the American people during their immediate time of need. Are body cams a total, 100% solution? No. Still, mandatory body cams are a hell of a step in the right direction.

I also call for town, county, and state governments to create citizen boards, voted in by the public and who are NOT, nor have EVER BEEN members or law enforcement, for the oversight of law enforcement in said jurisdiction. They must have enough power to handle situations and recommend the dismissal and/or charges brought upon corrupt or abusive officers of the law.

The only positive, and I use that term in the loosest possible way, is that the shooter, North Charleston Officer Michael Slager of South Carolina, has been charged with murder. Unfortunately, a 50-year-old black man, Walter L. Scott, is now dead over a broken tail light.

I have only two more things to say: 1. To the family of Walter L. Scott, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. It is my sincere hope that you are able to get as much justice as is possible for your murdered family member. 2. To the citizen who recorded the video of the shooting, the USA is forever in your debt for bringing the truth of this shooting to light. Thank you for your courage.

-Luke

One Scribble From Gov. Pence and Indiana Takes a Huge Step Back

Mike Pence- Indiana Religious Freedom Bill

Mike Pence- Indiana Religious Freedom Bill

Well, the Indiana Religious Freedom Bill is headed to Gov. Pence’s desk and he is likely to sign it. One scribble from his pen and Indiana takes a huge step back in our progress toward equal rights for all Indiana citizens.

This Bill isn’t only about LGBT rights in Indiana. But, I think that it mostly is for many fundamentalist style believers. Listen my fellow Hoosier business owners, if you offer a service to the public, it should be offered to the whole public. You are, of course, free NOT to offer a particular service to everyone. Like, if you are a pizza joint, you don’t have to serve clam chowder. Yet, if you serve pizza, don’t serve pizza to a straight patron and tell a gay customer to hit the bricks. If you bake wedding cakes, you can refuse to make provocative style cakes to all patrons. But, you should not deny a cake that you DO bake to a gay couple. A business, which is open to the public, should not deny services that they provide to paying customers only because they are gay, black, atheist, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, whatever…

We all have the right to our personal religious views. The First Amendment already guarantees that. You can believe what you want, teach what you want, go to fellowship wherever you want OR not. No one will come to your house of worship or home and force you what to believe or how to worship your god. Yet, if you choose to open a business to serve the public in Indiana, serve the public at large. If you want an exclusive private club, then charge membership fees and put “Private Club” on the front door.

Fellow Hoosier (or really anyone) if you find yourself today to be a person who has a downcast gaze upon the LGBT community, please read this blog that I wrote some time back.

Confessions of a Former Homophobe

Years ago, I used to be where you are now and was probably worse. Still, if you won’t change your mind and have a business that will be denying services to a portion of the population, have the balls to put a sign on the door saying so. If you get your morals from Jesus and he said not to be ashamed of him, display his alleged morals on the door for all to see. You wouldn’t want to be refused from heaven over your shame to have a public witness.

If this blog or the blog in the link resonate with you, please take a moment to hit the share buttons below. Thanks! -Luke

I Poll Atheists- 97.6% Don’t Care if You Wish Them “Merry Christmas”

During the last few weeks I have had and also overheard multiple conversations about the supposed, “War on Christmas,” and how atheists supposedly hate people telling them, “Merry Christmas.” As an atheist myself who enjoys the Christmas season, I was curious what other atheists think about the situation. Personally, I have no problem with a person wishing me, “Merry Christmas, “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Merry Kwanzaa,” or, “Happy New Year.” So long as you are sincerely wishing me well in your own way, I am cool with that.

When I was enjoying a cup of coffee and reading some Carl Sandburg at Waffle House several days ago, I got to be a fly on the wall when a few employees had their own ideological battle over what phrase is appropriate this time of year. As a customer was leaving, their server said loudly, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” The customer answered in kind. A few moments later, another employee mocked the first server, “Christmas isn’t for four days! You don’t need to say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ You can just say, “Happy Holidays.’ It covers everything.” The first server then replied, “I can say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ if I want! It is my Constitutional right!” As the two went back and forth, another server joined in on the side of the non-“Merry Christmas” side and the first server got even more agitated. It ended with some dishware being tossed angrily into the sink bin and the second server announcing, “You say what you want! It’s your job!” with the implicit warning that saying, “Merry Christmas,” could get you fired.

After the conversation cooled down, I asked all three, “Does your company have a specified policy on what to say during the holidays?” All shook their heads in the negative and one replied, “No, I don’t think so.” I said, “Just for the record, I am an atheist, but, I have no problem with a person saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Holidays,’ or whatever to me during the season.” Oddly enough, the second and third servers from the previous conversation did not seem happy to hear my interjection. Yet, not upset enough to argue with me. I also asked the three of them if they had experienced any negativity from any customers to being told a particular holiday phrase. They all said, “No.” It was strange to see people getting so riled up about what seemed to be a non-issue. I felt like the ironic atheist, publicly defending, “Merry Christmas.”

With my interest peaked even more about the issue, I decided to poll some of my fellow atheists to see what they thought about it. I did an informal poll on two different secret atheist groups on Facebook that I participate in.

My poll was simple. I posted,

“I’d appreciate the Club’s help with an informal poll for a Christmas article I’m working on. Here is the question…

As an atheist, does it offend you when a stranger says, “Merry Christmas,” to you, rather than, “Happy Holidays” or something more generic for the season? Please start your response with, “Yes,” (that it does offend you) or, “No,” (that it doesn’t)”

I got responses from atheists from all over the United States and in multiple other countries. The responses totaled 84 votes between the two Facebook groups.

The results were:

– 82 atheists had no problem being wished a, “Merry Christmas.”

-2 said that the phrase did SOMETIMES bother them.

The two voting that the phrase was at times offensive to them added,

“Yes, sometimes, I do get offended, but only because I live in the south where everyone just always assumes everyone is Christian. I’m tired of always having to live by their rules. I also am aware that it’s a small thing that I don’t need to sweat, so don’t anyone go off on me.”

and, “Yes, depending on the person saying it. If they know me personally, then they know I’m an atheist and I would expect them to respect me enough to say happy holidays as I would do the same in return as my wish for them would reflect whatever religion they observe. From a stranger, no, doesn’t bother me at all.”

All said and done, over 97% of the atheists polled did not mind people telling them, “Merry Christmas,” at all. The two people who did find it offensive, only did under certain circumstances. Though my sample group was not very large, it did offer great variation in culture and geography. That said, I don’t think that the whole, “War on Christmas,” by atheists is everything the media cracks it up to be. Heck, the vast majority of the atheists polled even celebrate Christmas to some degree.

I have rarely every found an atheist that had any problem with another person’s personal expression of their own religious beliefs. But, we do tend to get upset when religious dogma is imposed via federal, state, or local government. As much as we value the rights of individuals, we also value the Constitutional restrictions regarding government pushing or showing preference to any religion. Again, I speak generally and not for every atheist in the world. We don’t all live on an island, have an atheist Pope, or think the same thing… and, we’re more like a herd of cats than a herd of sheep.

You have the right to say whatever holiday season well-wishing you want to people. They may like it or may not. Likely, they won’t even care.For me, I generally respond to a person with what they offered me. If, “Merry Christmas,” I respond with, “Merry Christmas.” If, “Happy Holidays,” I answer the same back. Still, I do think that, “Happy Holidays,” is the most comprehensive and inclusive benison. It includes all holidays and and excludes none. Yet, I know that some Christians feel excluded when not specifically blessed per their specifications. They don’t give much credence to the holidays of other faiths during this season and have tunnel vision for Christmas. Only wear that shoe if it fits. I am not trying to ruffle your feathers. Let each search their own conscience regarding this issue.

There is enough drama in life. There is no need to spend December pissing on one another’s holiday campfire and fighting battles that don’t exist. So cheer up! The, “War on Christmas,” is just a sham. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And, have a great New Year!    -Luke

My New Book “Love is the Middle”- Thoughts on Finishing Draft One

A picture my daughter, Lydia, took of me before I left to write this morning.

A picture my daughter, Lydia, took of me before I left to write this morning.

It was a very strange feeling that I had just minutes ago…

I have been working on the first draft of my new book, “Love is the Middle,” since January. It is the story of how my deceased father and I grew far apart during my teens and then restored our wanting relationship during my twenties. I also cover the few years after when we were very close, his battle with cancer before dying, and how I adjusted to life after his passing.

As my custom is for writing this book, I go to Steak ‘n Shake where Dad and I spent untold hours bullshitting over coffee after we became close again. 100% of my writing of this book has been done at various Steak ‘n Shake restaurants, spread out between two states. I have been writing the first draft since January of this year. Since I am not a full time writer, I work in writing sessions between running my own small business, being a husband, father, and singer/songwriter. The flexibility I have has lent itself well to being consistent with writing the new book over the course of the year. Other than during a much needed emotional hiatus  from writing the book for a bit over the late summer, I have worked on it between one and three times per week all year.

It may seem strange to write such a personal book in public. I chose to do so for two reasons: 1. Being in the atmosphere of a place that my father and I spent so much time together has been crucial to facilitate the mood I need to tackle this book now that my dad has been dead for over five years 2. Since I am writing so many difficult and personal things for others to read (and hopefully learn and be encouraged from), I figured that it would be appropriate to do so in the company of my fellow humans.

Writing this book in public has not been without its difficulties. Nearly every writing session, I tackle something that makes me want to cry. I can never anticipate or predict what specifically will cause that. It just happens. As my face sometimes leaks a bit and I become visibly emotional, I trust that my fellow humans around will not judge me as too much of a weirdo.

When I left the house this morning, I was fully purposed. I knew that I was within perhaps only hundreds of words left to write to complete the first draft of the book. With my Harris Tweed overcoat on to protect me from the cold, November morning weather in Indiana and my fully-charged laptop in tow, I lit out from the house for a writing session. After arriving at Steak ‘n Shake, I popped up the book file in Word and started to review a bit of the last sessions text before jumping into a fresh writing session. As I did that this morning, I had a strange realization; other than some “afterword” type stuff that I will not write until the book is completely edited and proofed, the book is finished. Well, the first draft anyway.

And then it started to sink in. The book that I anticipated writing for five years, felt that I NEEDED to write, decided to tackle this year, and have now been working on for ten months… is finished. That took a moment to absorb.

I have cooked since I was very young. I love working on a tasty dish: adding the primary ingredients, adding a pinch of this, a dash of that, and tasting for flavor development as it goes. Then, at a certain point, you realize that the dish just tastes “right.” Everything that needs to be in it is in it. Adding anything else would mess it up. It takes maturity and experience as a cook to know when your dish is at that point. All you have to do then is let it finish simmering and serve it up for all to enjoy.

After I re-read the last half of what I wrote during my previous writing session, it hit me like a brick that this book is done. The bitter-sweet recipe is complete.

Not to be “all dressed up with nowhere to go” so to speak, I just decided to write a blog about finishing the book as I sip my hot coffee with one cream and one sugar 🙂

Writing, “Love is the Middle,” has been one of the most difficult and rewarding creative tasks that I have ever engaged in. Actually, it has been THE most difficult and rewarding creative task that I have ever engaged in. Now that draft one is finished, I look forward to the editing/proofing process that comes next, as well as formatting and graphics. Self-publishing is an adventure! I truly hope that when finished and published in print and online next year, “Love is the Middle,” will “grow legs” and walk around this world a bit. That would make me very happy.

All that said, for the last time reporting from Steak ‘n Shake- Luke

 

 

Homeless Man Shares His Beautiful Melody on Piano- A Lesson on Humility and Compassion (Video)

The only real difference between a homeless person and a non-homeless person is a home. People with and without homes can have all the same wonderful personality traits as well as faults, successes as well as failures. Sometimes, people who find themselves homeless may have had great successes at times, but run up against an insurmountable problem that left them on the streets. Other times, addiction may be a driving force. Among all the reasons that a person ends up without a home, that person is just “us” in a different reality. Who knows if the shoe was on the other foot, that you or I would not be in the same situation or worse. Also, some people choose to live a transient lifestyle for more esoteric reasons rather than homelessness befalling them.

Some may protest, “BUT! Many of the homeless have problems and are on the streets because of their addictions to drugs and alcohol!” Sure enough. Some of the “homed” do as well. They just happen to have the luxury of their own roof over their head.

Last week, immediately after leaving the TEDx Indy convention, I met a guy on the street looking for work (honestly) who was homeless. I took him to grab some Steak ‘n Shake and we chatted for a while. I have done that same thing on multiple occasions before. I have never had a bad experience. It is rare for many men and women who find themselves living in shelters and on the streets to have a “homed” person relate to them with no condescension. Relating to a homeless person as your honest human equal is a great gift, not only to that person, but to yourself as it requires personal humility and perspective. What you may find when taking a  bit of time out of your life to related to a homeless human is that, not only do you have something to offer them, but that they have experiences and friendship (even if very temporary) to offer you. I have had a few experiences with homeless people during my life that have left a positive, permanent mark on me.

I believe that the small, positive actions we share with our fellow humans can make a huge impact. Please visit my blog site, “The Butterfly Flutter Project,” at the link below for more information on having a direct, daily impact for the better. Also, check out this man sharing his melody on piano in the video above. His talents can brighten your day! Thanks for reading, sharing, and have a wonderful day! -Luke

http://butterflyflutter.com/

Take that Pence… Gay Marriage for Indiana

DING DONG! THE WITCH IS DEAD! The appeal by the Pence administration to overturn gay marriage in Indiana has failed. Gay couples MUST be allowed to marry in Indiana 🙂

I am very happy for my fellow Hoosiers who are LGBT and their newly affirmed legal ability to marry. I used to actually be on the other side of this issue. To read my story of what caused me to change my mind, please read this previous blog (and please share):

https://lukeaustindaugherty.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/confessions-of-a-former-homophobe-same-love/comment-page-1/

I also expect the obvious trolling by fundamentalist about how our State has gone the way of Sodom and Gomorrah now, destined to be rained upon by supernatural judgement. Get over it peeps…

By the way, I am an ordained “Universal Life Church” minister and can legally perform marriages in Indiana. If you are an LGBT couple in my area (Central Indiana) and are having a hard time finding a minister to solemnize your marriage, shoot me a message. I would be glad to provide a simple non-religious/secular ceremony for you if our schedules allow. It can be penance for my former bigotry.

Bill Maher Show: Sam Harris vs Ben Affleck Debate- I’m with Sam on this one

Ideas should never be above criticism, particularly religious ones. Though I have great respect for Ben Affleck’s acting and humanitarian work, I have to go with Sam Harris on this debate. Islam not only leaves room for violence and oppression, its texts call for it. I am grateful that a great deal of the adherents to Islam, being around 1 billion in the world, have found a more nuanced way to view and practice their faith. Yet, many Muslims take the fundamental dictates of Islam regarding violence very seriously.

Affleck was impassioned in his challenge to Harris. Yet, his indignation, straw men, and non sequiturs added nothing to his argument.

There are several key points to consider about this issue:

1. Islam is not a “race,” rather, a religious ideology. Ideas are not above reproach or criticism. People deserve protection, rights, and respect. Ideas are made to be tested, discussed, debated, and even ridiculed. To quote Steven Brutus, “Anything that can’t be mocked is dangerous.” No idea, philosophy, or ideology should ever be off-limits from being battered like a pinata to see what ends up falling out, for better or for worse.

2. Islamic religious texts not only allow for violence against non-believers, but actually prescribe it. The portion of Muslims who put those admonitions into actual practice (or just agree with them) are not employing strained or fringe interpretations of those religious texts, but literal ones. For a list of such references, click the link: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/cruelty/long.html

Not to single out Islam for possessing religious texts with a call to kill unbelievers, as there are plenty of similar verses in the Hebrew Bible & other religious texts. I am no fan of those either. But, it is Islam that is the matter of debate in the video above.

3. Any fundamental and violent faith text or system is an enemy of human progress. ANY text, religious or otherwise, that says, “Kill a person who does not agree with this,” is an abomination to humanity. Any or all texts deserve public condemnation. We should all support religious freedom and also the freedom NOT to be religious. But, that doesn’t include the right to harm, imprison, or kill others for not agreeing with you.

One Click on “Translate” and My Blog Becomes the Tower of Babel

Blogger-Logo

I have been in the blogging game for about nine months now. I absolutely love the ability to turn an idea, poem, essay, or news article into a web posting quickly for anyone to access. When I think back just ten years to what it was like when I was publishing my poetry only in chapbooks, the ability to publish instantly worldwide now is amazing to me. 

Since I started publishing my blogs on WordPress, I have had readers in over seventy countries all around the world. That is extremely satisfying and encouraging to me. As a writer, the ability to share my thoughts around the world is a precious thing. Hell, I’m still impressed by the telephone, so the internet is a damn wonder to me even in 2014. When I consider the capabilities that creative types have to share their work today vs. one short generation ago, it is staggering. Sharing our ideas with others around the world and visa versa is allowing us all to grow, be challenged, and experience new things. 

There is a story in the Bible about the “Tower of Babel.” As different tribes came together to build a tall building for unification, as the story goes, God was a bit worried about the capabilities that people would have if they worked together and had one language. So, He decided to go down and confuse their speech into different languages to hinder their progress and scatter them. See this link for a bit of history on that fable in the book of Genesis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Babel

babel

Artist’s rendering of the mythical Tower of Babel

I would say based on the engineering ability of people back then, if the height of the Tower of Babel gave God pause, He is probably calling an emergency meeting in Heaven over the Burj Khalifa. Not only that, but the power of Goggle Translate is undoing the confusion brought on at the Tower of Babel. I speak figuratively of course, as I do not regard that Bible story as a historical event. But, it is worth mentioning for contrast and as a demarcation on the path of human progress. Thanks to Translate and other similar programs, the barriers of human communication are being broken down with a fury. I know the translations can be a bit quirky, but it’s a hell of a lot better than trying to read something in an language you don’t understand. 

burj

Burj Khalifa, the tallest man made structure in the world at 829.8 m (2,722 ft).

All that said, I will be taking advantage of the translate option on Blogger, Google’s blogging platform. Every new blog that I post on my WordPress site and a selection of some already published will also be on my new Blogger site. There is a Translate gadget right on the front page which will allow people all over the world not only to read my blogs, but have the option to read the blogs in their own language with ease. 

Please check out my new Blogger site at the link. Feel free to follow me there or on Google + and check out the Translate feature. 

http://lukeaustindaugherty.blogspot.com/

Regarding My 37th Birthday and Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

Luke Austin Daugherty on his 37th birthday.

Luke Austin Daugherty on his 37th birthday. -Photo credit: Nathanael Daugherty

I am a fresh 37 years old today. It is not a very impressive year in any obvious way. Not 30 or 40. Not even 35, splitting the difference between the two. Yet, I am now as happy and content as I recollect ever being on a birthday morning from a data set of thirty-seven. 

It has been an interesting experiment for me on several occasions to contrast myself at a particular age to a well-known person or a person I admire in some way. Due to the flapping of the butterfly’s wings and the serendipity of chance, I have occasion to do that today. Several weeks ago, Robin Williams took his own life, which caused me to reflect on how the movie, “Dead Poets Society,” had such an impact on me as a teenager. Reflecting on that movie brought Walt Whitman to mind, a favorite poet of mine. Yesterday, unrelated to the previous scenario, a friend on Facebook shared a list of questions given to Karl Marx by his daughters in 1865. I decided to write my own set of answers. In doing so, I needed to refer to, “Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman, which had been brought to mind earlier this month by Robin Williams’s death. 

As I read the beginning of, “Song of Myself,” I realized that Whitman was writing the poem at the age of 37. Toward the beginning of the poem, Whitman mentioned his age specifically and that he was in good health. I wondered if he actually wrote it on his own birthday or at least started the poem then, since it is fairly long. Being one day shy of 37 when I noticed that yesterday, I committed to myself to revisit Whitman and his poem today, on my 37th birthday. That may seem the long way around to arrive at this point in my birthday blog, but it has always interested me how the laws of cause and effect operate in one’s life. 

Walt Whitman at approximately my own present age

Walt Whitman at approximately my own present age

I suppose the greatest commonality I share with Whitman is that we’re both (or rather, he was and I am) a scripturient. Aside from that, we share indie/self-published author status. I have always admired the fact that he published, “Leaves of Grass,” on his own dime. Thus far, every album and book I have published has been done the same way. I don’t even know if I would want to change that. I am feverishly territorial and independent about my writing and process. Both Whitman and I are beardy men. (I reckon I’ll just speak of him as though he was in the present tense for sake of ease and simplicity) I have had a much more epic beard previously than I do now. I am currently trimming it at a #4 length and it used to be several inches long. It seems, by the available pictures, that Whitman’s beard grew in length as he grew more long in the tooth. 

“Song of Myself,” has been oft criticized for more than a century as the most egotistical poem ever written. Even if that were true, I do not see it as a negative. It isn’t a bad thing to love one’s own self, so long as it doesn’t lead to narcissism, spite for others, or destructive selfishness. I think it takes several decades of life to learn to really love yourself well and independent of the critique of others. I believe that it is very difficult to love others properly without loving one’s self first. A self-hater rarely finds anything untainted to offer a fellow human, even when he or she would like to. So, I hold no penalty toward Whitman for esteeming himself well. Loving yourself also does not have a direct correlation to degrading others or celebrating them less in proportion. Perhaps the opposite tends to be the rule. 

Below are just a few selected lines from, “Song of Myself,” which I most relate to or find inspirational now in my own 37th year as Whitman was when he wrote them.

“I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin, Hoping to cease not till death.”

“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
     origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are
     millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
     look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
     spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
     from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.”

“These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands,
     they are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or
     next to nothing,”

“Have you heard that it was good to gain the day?
I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in
  ”   which they are won.”

“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is
     myself,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or
     ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can
     wait.” 

“I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will,
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight
     upon me.”

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)” 

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“Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman