Image by Swamibu via Flickr
Written by Karen D. Swim
I awakened this morning to darkness. Momentarily confused without the morning light to guide me, I got up and padded to the window. I peered out into the darkness silently willing the dawn to break. I gave thanks for the day as I carefully stepped through the darkened house to prepare for the day. I stopped for a moment to breathe in the peaceful stillness. I wanted to hold on to that feeling of calm serenity for as long as possible.
A few short hours later that peace was challenged as I read about the man who hung an effigy of US Presidential candidate, Barack Obama from his front yard lynching tree, the newscaster beaten in her home, and the mother gunned down while walking her daughter to school. My heart lurched and I clutched that peace close as I prayed for those with such hatred in their heart. As I wondered about the state of our world and what I could do to make a difference, I stumbled across this poem.
O Me! O Life! —by Walt Whitman
“O Me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”
My heart regained hope as I clung to the answer – I am here and I can contribute a verse. In this world filled with negativity, I can write words that inspire and uplift. In my encounters with people today, I can allow my smile and cheery greeting to be a love song. I can listen to those forgotten, hug those in need of affection, speak up on behalf of injustice, offer water to the thirsty. I am here and I can contribute a verse.
How are you feeling today? What verse will you write?
Thanks for your peaceful positive reminder, Karen.
News like the kind you mention is really difficult for me to process, it pains me so. Sometimes I have to stop watching the news for long periods of time and withdraw from the world because the negativity is too overwhelming.
Walt Whitman is one of my favorite writers.
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Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations says
I know that some days it feels like we are nothing more than a grain of sand on a vast beach, each trying to speak up with our tiny voices. But together, we make up that beautiful beach, that place where everyone dreams of walking.
WE can build castles together, castles where hope, kindness and love can dwell.
The grains of sand need to stick together.
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This is so beautiful! Through your words, I felt like I was right there absorbing the peace with you. 🙂
I think folks are so cruel. And, I simply detest watching or listening to all the negativity the news brings.
I disagree with a lot of things other people believe in, but I’d never hurt them or be mean to them because of it. Sometimes I feel like a naive child. Why? Because I simply don’t understand all these “adults” and why they act the way they do. I long for people to just appreciate each other for who they are and the positive aspects they have to offer. Why not look for those positive things instead of lashing out at them for thinking or living differently?
Ah, this world…
Yes, you did contribute something very positive and beautiful, by the way. Thank you!
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Individually, we may not be able to solve world poverty, cure all disease or stop all wars, but what we can do is give someone a courteous gesture, smile or kind word of encouragement.
You never know, your act of kindness or courtesy might occur at the time when the recipient needed it most.
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Brad Shorr says
Hi Karen, this morning I was feeling rather exasperated. Your post cheered me up – so I just want to report that your efforts bore fruit today. Every little bit helps.
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Rosa Say says
Mahalo nui ke aloha nui Karen;
Thank you for who you are, and for the aloha you share with all of us.
So many others read those horrid news stories and shake their heads in sadness with you. Only a few do as you did though, seeking to speak with a louder and brighter voice of hope and optimism.
How blessed I am that I could be someone listening for you, and hearing you so wonderfully.
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Jamie Grove - How Not To Write says
How interesting you would pick this poem… About 18 years ago I drove all night from Ohio to Camden, NJ to visit the grave of Walt Whitman. This is one of the poems I read in the Harleigh Cemetery by the little pond near Whitman’s “long house”.
I remember thinking there in Camden, which is not a terribly nice place, that Walt Whitman would have been quite happy among the sounds of the plodding, sorid crowds that went on living all around his resting place.
Change is coming. We have only to hold on to who we are and be truthful in the face of adversity.
“We are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For, We are the Change We Seek.”
Great post, Karen.
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Evelyn Lim says
I would like to do my part with words of inspiration, hope and beauty first by thanking you for a beautiful post written, even while you are surrounded by bad news from the media. Let me not speak ill of others today but to only say things that can comfort and heal!
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Karen Swim says
Melissa, this election season has brought a wonderful passion and advocacy and exposed a nasty side of human behavior. It is the best of times and the worst of times. I read Heather’s political post and follow-up on dooce.com today and just shook my head. Are we really so hot headed and narrow minded that we cannot even begin to listen to the “other side” whatever that side might be? I don’t agree with many of the things I read, hear and see but I am still capable of disagreeing, discussing and not having it degrade into an all out personal attack. I am so cool with people writing with passion about their opinions, bring it on that is the true mark of freedom BUT I am not cool with ugly name calling and attacks. The sad part about the effigy is that it does still happen and it happens to real living beings but it never gets reported. At least now we can expose it, talk about it and hopefully heal and progress.
Karen Swim says
Kelly, this morning I was totally feeling Walt and the last line was the kicker for me too. Just kind of hit me right there. Yes, we have some work but we also have the answer.
Melissa Donovan says
When I read the story in the news about the effigy hanging from a tree, I cried. That is not the America I believe in. The last few days have been difficult watching the news coverage of the election with activities at the McCain/Palin rallies downright disturbing. Over the weekend I had a nightmare about this kind of mentality and violence, and it shook me to my core. There is hope though, and millions of people are crying out for it, by donating, speaking out, and voting. Is it any wonder Obama supporters are so proud of their candidate, who is the very embodiment of hope? A few weeks ago I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate for us non-political bloggers to talk politics or endorse a candidate but in this climate, I’m starting to think the importance and significance of this election transcends our professional ambitions. I can’t wait to vote for Obama and everything he stands for.
Walt blew me away there. I haven’t read him in a long time. that last line is a kicker. Printing and keeping this post right now. Thanks for seeing the (b)right side on a dark day!
So very true. There’s still so far to go, but we have come a long way. Well-said.
Karen Swim says
Ulla, I can say the same thing about you. Through your beautiful pictures and words you have opened my eyes to the beauty of Berlin. You awakened a passion to learn more and to want to visit. That is truly the beauty of language when it connects and inspires. So thank you my friend for the gift of words you have given me here.
Karen Swim says
Friar, I am hugging you right now! 🙂 Those words alone touch me in the opposite way (good) than when I read that sickening story. Thank you Friar!!!
Karen Swim says
Joanna, your words mean so much to me and you have given me more than I can ever return. xoxo
Ulla Hennig says
@Friar: I love your comment!
@Karen: You not only can write words that inspire and uplift – you do write words that inspire and uplift. Reading your posts makes me aware of the power of language – and the beauty of the English language as well!
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If you want some hope, think of it this way:
Yes, one idiot hung Obama in effigy from a tree.
But, on the other hand, 299,999,999 other people DIDN’T.
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Joanna Young says
Oh Karen, and you write the most beautiful verses! Don’t ever forget it. You brighten up our world.
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