Thursday, July 8, 2010

Traveling Alone Together

I am toward the end of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, on my iPhone no less, and I have relished every second with this poet.  Just as with Emily Dickinson’s Collected Works, which I also read on my iPhone, I have longed to take a leisurely subway ride, or to have a free hour or so before I sleep, to reenter this portable world of words.

Whitman and Dickinson are so different.  I admire Dickinson’s almost mathematical precision and rhythm.  Her abstractions on poems often match my thinking in an uncanny way: as her song ends I understand, and yet the idea lingers in the air and adds depth where no words are written.

Whitman however unleashes the line from any certainty, and revels in nature’s details, as if ideas would only intrude in the world before our eyes.  I admire Whitman’s enthusiastic camaraderie, his openness to sex, immigrants, the offbeat, and the wonder of being alone.

Both poets in a way seem alone with their poetry.  They are to me deeply humanistic, yet this is not a humanism that values the chitchat of society, or the glib conclusions of casual and catty observers.  They seem alone to me because they travel within themselves.  To stop and remark politely would despoil their journey.  They hearken to ‘others’ --what writer does not want to be read?-- but these others are those like themselves.  They are traveling alone together.

I started Chico Lingo to communicate, debate, chronicle, and explore the days before me.  At times I write to you, the reader.  Sometimes I plead for understanding.  On other occasions, yes, I will pontificate and complain.  But I also write to myself.  It is one of the interesting and peculiar activities human beings can do: they can reflect on what they think, through writing in my case, in which my ‘thinking’ is arranged into words and paragraphs, through Chico Lingo.

I embarked on this journey into myself principally because this is how I have always been.  I want to be alone together with others who are not glib, who question what is given to them by authority or tradition, who wonder at thinking and understanding, the process, and who see what is in between the said, the concluded, and the promised.  When I have ignored this ‘searching self with an acute perspective,’ to give it a name, I ignore myself.  I do it when I am in a hurry, when I am in pain, and when I am weak-minded.  And I have always regretted it later.  It is as if I had temporarily lost who I truly am.

I have often imagined it is the soul reaching out, this thinking and writing alone together.  This soul is meant to be understood and read, and it is meant to reach someone, but that audience is whoever listens, and perhaps limited to those who already will not forget the quiet self that shadows them even within their family.  The audience for this soul, instead of being a target, grants itself into the company of those wanting to be alone together.

So I seek my audience with a vague hope to be heard, but even if I am not, if my words and strange musings remain unread and not understood, I would still reach into the darkness.  I don’t know why.  It is not for the audience.  Nor is it for a vain self.  It is --how can I explain it?-- at once to sanctify and upend life, to lift it from what it is, to focus thought into words and create a call to what was and what is when we live.