Day 24/30 - spider soul


Good news! The notLockDown will end after 13 June. I realised my countdown is inaccurate since I started on Day5 of the 30-day notLockDown. Oh well. But here is a poem again that speaks directly to the experience of isolation and connection. 

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is the grandfather of American poetry. His person and poetry seemed one - larger than the page, expansive, generous, superlative, declaratory.  It is almost impossible, for reason of word count, to share any of his poems - but here is one rare small poem by Whitman. 

But in the same way that the smallness of the spider's form belies the expansiveness of its presence, this short small poem spins a large romantic notion (romantic or naive because, in reality, aren't spider webs to trap prey???). The notion is this: that the human soul seeks connection - even when we do not know where the signals, the threads, the filaments we send out will land.

This dream of the self connecting with another, becoming larger, infinitely expanding, is the dream embedded in the narrative of America. One becomes many. Many becomes one. Many states, united. The new migrant to an old land, forms a new nation. The loneliness of that soul on a large continent feels desolate, yet it remains hopeful, desiring familiarity and home.

That hope is also human and universal. We were not created islands. Even if we are, through physical or spiritual circumstance, we long for the currents that erase and draw and re-draw our shorelines, and we ache for the hinterland.

A Noiseless Patient Spider
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated.
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself.
Ever reeling them, every tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space.
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul. 

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