Guest Observation: Walt Whitman

From “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (part 6):

“I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine;

I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed in the waters around it;

I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,

In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they came upon me,

In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came upon me.

“I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution;

I too had receiv’d identity by my Body;

That I was, I knew was of my body—and what I should be, I knew I should be of my body.”


That’s it. Except to say this passage has always said something to me about the purely physical part of our identity, the part that engages on a level that we’re only dimly aware of, the part that finds joy in something like running or cycling or walking long walks. The cognitive linguistics course I’m taking this spring, one of the ideas it promotes is that the language we use–especially the metaphorical language we use, sometimes to describe complex and abstract thoughts, experiences, and objects–comes straight out of our physical experience on a very basic level–both what we see and feel in the world and how our brains process it. Those last three lines from Whitman seem to come from the same place: He recognized his identity not just as his mind and thoughts but as something arising from the fact of his physical being amidst all the beings and things in the world.


And one last thing: Happy birthday, Ann!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *