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Inspiring Gifts that Transform
Walt Whitman (1819–1892), was called the "greatest of all American poets" by many foreign observers a mere four years after his death. His works have been translated into more than 25 languages, and his freestyle, liberated use verse continues to inspire poets and readers alike. Leaves of Grass, his most famous work, which he continued to edit and revise until his death, first appeared in 1855. Below is a small excerpt from the remarkable original preface. Enjoy.
"The largeness of nature or the nation were monstrous without a corresponding largeness and generosity of the spirit of the citizen. Not nature nor swarming states nor streets and steamships nor prosperous business nor farms nor capital nor learning may suffice for the ideal of man, nor suffice the poet...
The gaggery and gilt of a million years will not prevail. Who troubles himself about his ornaments or fluency is lost. This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body…"
You've probably noticed there's a growing alternative media movement a foot in the United States. Shaped in response to the growth of the Internet and other distribution technologies, the continuing consolidation of media companies, and the unprecedented deregulation of the industry, a small group of hearty souls is working hard to insure your future will be shaped by a democratic media landscape. But you may not known that a key facilitator behind this dialogue is one of my clients, Rockwood Leadership Program.
What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can't walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t blame them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.
But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fundraising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.
It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
Here's a story from a book I highly recommend, The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. This tale was first told to them by their good friend Vikram Savkar, and I would now like to share it with you.
Last night, I visited one of my old college haunts, a seedy diner located south of the campus. I took a place at the counter next to a man who appeared, on a second look, to be homeless. Before him, meticulously laid out, were three dollar bills and some change, apparently all he had in the world. When the waitress appeared, I ordered a hamburger -- but the man put out his hand as if to slow me down. With a grand gesture, he announced, "It's on me. You can have anything you want tonight, and you won't pay a penny. It's all on me." I protested that I could not possibly do that. He was offering the whole of his worldly possessions, and I certainly could not accept such a gift. But he was determined to have his moment. "You are going to have what you want, and it's on me." He pushed all his money toward the indifferent woman behind the counter.
I was aware of every delicious bite of that hamburger, every sip of coffee. With a mere three dollars and fifty-odd cents, this man had created a humane world brimming over with charity and abundance. This momentary universe teemed with delicious smells from the grill, while voices of happiness emanated from a couple chatting at a booth. And I, I had the deeply satisfying experience of being there while all this took place. I thanked him for everything.
"Oh, no," he said, winking at my last ditch efforts to find some parity. "The pleasure's all mine."
Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright, novelist, poet, short story writer and Freemason, known for his barbed and clever wit, was one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London. His life took a tragic turn, when at the height of his fame, he was accused and imprisoned for homosexual "gross indecency.” Upon release he lived penniless under an assumed name, exiled from society, dying not too long after from syphilitic meningitis. Today his legacy lives on as the gayest of all blades. Yet I never knew that he was a socialist, who had strong opinions about private charity.
"The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism -- are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this… Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease…What do you think? Can even the most well-intentioned amongst us challenge the institutions that made them strong? Would perhaps reframing the debate have a more long lasting impact on alleviating suffering and oppression?
The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last we have had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problem and know the life -- educated men who live in the East End -- coming forward and imploring the community to restrain its altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on the ground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They are perfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.
There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair."
So I have a little New Year's resolution to share, which is to express gratitude more often in all of my life. We've never met, but I'd like to thank web maven Britt Bravo and her work for inspiring me to reach higher. So without further adieu, here are a few miscellaneous items I'm thankful for from this past week.
"This tale was meant to be a buddy flick … A silver-haired Biffett, played by Steve Martin, vows that the young whippersnapper will never beat the old master. Biffett's bridge partner persuades him to lay down a bet of 10 million Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., worth $31 billion. Cut to a close-up of Gates, smiling fiendishly as he hands out Xboxes to a line of orphans some 100 million deep … Suggested movie title: 'Bill and Warren's Excellent Adventure.'"At least Melinda is finally getting some respect. Now we're being asked to "think of her as Princess Di with an MBA."