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Reflecting on Walt Whitman (Part II)

In Song of Myself, Walt Whitman suggests that an elusive and transparent continuity of being is the fuel to life’s fire, but its inherent invisibility and ephemerality makes it impossible to define, teach, or learn. Language blinds humanity from the truth of reality, creating doubt, suffering, sadness, anxiety, and fear. To demonstrate this tragedy, I created a poster.

As He's slipping into his own unconsciousness
A sea of faces and Jesus’ apostles yearn for an “invisible reality” that floats inside of a dark void, resembling a cavern. The dark space is not meant to represent black opposed to white, but the sheer inconceivability which confronts the mind when it tries to remember the time before birth, or to penetrate its own depths.

The tragedy of Walt Whitman’s poem and my poster is the inherent irony of explaining or describing that which cannot be explained or described. In my poster, I have labeled the dark area as “invisible reality”, but neither the space nor the label are invisible, demonstrating the irony of symbolism. “Invisible reality” will always be unknowable because it automatically creates the illusion of a “visible reality,” repeating the detrimental parallel between Self and Other. “Invisible reality” is, in fact, also visible, but this concept is strictly theoretical.

I placed the statement, “…as he’s slipping into his own unconsciousness…,” above humanity and the circuitous symbolization of God for two reasons:

1. The present continuous (i.e. this is what I’m writing at this very instant, etc.) represents Now, the only time that matters. Or, as Whitman writes:

There was never any more inception than there is now
Nor any more youth or age than there is now
And will never be any more perfection than there is now
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now. (60-3)

2. “Unconsciousness” is a hole in our experience, abstract and mysterious, because it lacks animosity and self-awareness. The dissolution of “…as he’s slipping into his own unconsciousness…” suggests a transcendent, outward expansion of the Self.

All in all, I’ve attempted to demonstrate the ideology of that which “is without name” (1914) and “is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol” (1915).

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