The Meaning of Life in Walt Whitman's Song of Myself
Our culture seems to be fascinated by the unknown and specifically that which pertains to things of an eternal nature such as Heaven, angels, God and the meaning of forever. These things cause us to think about what we can't see and even allow us to engage ourselves in questioning the meaning behind our existence and what our purpose is here on earth. Some of these may be humorous and take on the realities of human nature while others stir something inside ourselves that cause us to take a deeper look at life.
In Whitman's "Song of Myself" #44, he appears to be doing just that-- looking at life from a different perspective for a while. He begins with a challenge to mankind by saying, "What is known I strip away... I launch all men and women forward with me into the unknown. The clock indicates the moment ... but what does eternity indicate?" (1133-1136) It is as though he is asking each reader to join him in the exploration of the unknown, forgetting about the moment, and what the clock says and really considering what forever signifies. I don't know if you've ever sat down and actually thought about eternity... I mean really thought about it to the point that your brain seems like it's going to explode, but forever is a long time. It never ends...... and this is something that we as humans cannot fathom because in our lives everything has a beginning and everything has an end--anything other than this is viewed as incomprehensible.
Whitman suggests that there is a certain cycle which keeps repeating itself as the years go on, indicating that perhaps eternity is made up of years of processes happening over and over again. His first example is of a bottomless reservoir in which buckets continue to rise and rise then "they pour and they pour and they exhale away." (1137) Whitman then presents the idea of how many trillions of winters and summers have gone before us and how many winters and summers will occur after we are gone. This refers to the process of the seasons and how after our life is over, the leaves will still change and the snow will come and eventually spring will bloom. Knowing Whitman to be an advocate of nature, this illustration seems to indicate that nature is at times the only thing we have to rely on. Its continuous stability has proven to be a process that never ends.
"Births have brought us richness and variety, and other births will bring us richness and variety." (1140-1141) Here I don't think that he particularly referring to monetary wealth, but rather richness in character and value to society. There are certain people in every generation who distinguish themselves in a particular area, therefore making them a part of history which will always live on. This...