11/28/2011 10:24 am ET Updated Jan 28, 2012

Untranslatable Too

Walt Whitman is by turns comforting and disturbing me today. It's why I sought him out. I'm overdue for a good cage rattling. Time to tip myself sideways and reexamine the landscape.

So, I sent my soul out to loaf on the metaphorical grass with instructions to listen for the password primeval, knowing that footsteps of my mind and the beatings of my own heart are all that will sound. Sure enough, the echoes came from within. I caught my own thoughts dancing with words of wisdom from friends and relatives, and mixing with the lines of poems and songs that I carry like talismans. These collected scraps are the stories we tell ourselves. They are our master works, our personal legends. The secret lies in the listening. The gift is finding insight from both the spider's silken whisper and the wind whistling through the web.

It'd be so much easier if the map of a life, the architecture of emotions, and the trajectory of action really did reveal themselves on stone tablets, in tea leaves, or etched onto our palms. We humans like answers. We like to think, even at the risk of overthinking. After all, what's the point of our highly touted capacity for reason if we can't pin a quandary to the mat and fix it's wings in place? But when is the butterfly more beautiful -- in free flight or sprawled on Styrofoam?

I find that the echoes in my head are leery of logic. They resist reasoning. There are no "right answers" to the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of life's decisions. Formulas fracture in the bright light of day. Our personal legends are notes to self, not prophesies. This is liberating and terrifying. It's much easier, indeed ,to follow a rulebook. But somewhere between the paralysis of freedom-induced fear and the chains of rational determinism, I'm finding rest in the still point of irresolution.

Somehow, I find myself suspended between two very different gravitational forces.

On the one side, a yogic acceptance, which has learned to resist the urge to alter things -- circumstances, inquiries, other people, myself -- through force. Calm comes from mastering one's own reactions. In other words, happiness and suffering are internal decisions, not external absolutes. The choice is ours.

On the other side, a visceral intensity that dwells in duende, the darkly mysterious primal goad to creative acts, keenly described by Federico García Lorca. This is the demon of soulful discomfort, which tears at the fabric of what I am or was or should be. It is the screaming yawl that I want to let run rampant through my chambers, scratching the walls for trap doors and hidden passages. For how will I make anything meaningful, if I don't allow myself to fear its destruction or loss?

Serenity and longing. Are they really opposites? Love and pain, can they ever be estranged? If, like Depeche Mode, you despise that throwaway feeling of disposable fun, then this is the one. Life. You are the master. You are the servant.

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

excerpt Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself."

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