I’m going to go completely off-topic for this post. It’s coming up on my fifth-month anniversary of blogging . . . it’s a brisk 8 degrees out there in frozen New Jersey . . . and I feel like connecting. Not reviewing, not analyzing, not dissecting . . . just. . . connecting.
So instead of writing about one of The Books That Mattered as I’ve been doing for the past five months, I’m going to spend a few moments talking about Walt Whitman. The good gray poet who spent the latter part of his life in Camden, NJ–not too many miles from where I sit looking out my window at the frozen tundra that used to be my back yard.
(For those of you who are not in the United States, we are in the midst of one of the most bone-chilling and relentless winters on record.)
I got to thinking this frozen morning about Walt and one of my favorite poems of his:
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 unreeling them, ever 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.
Back in the day, before blogging and tweeting and texting and YouTubing, back even before emails and surfing the web, I used to think this poem was about . . . writing poetry.
But now that I’m both older and younger than I was back then, it dawns on me that “A Noiseless Patient Spider” is not just about writing poetry, not even just about writing, it is really about trying to make a connection . . . any kind of connection.
And really, when you think about it, what are all these blogs and tweets and texts, but all of us noiseless, patient spiders isolated on our little promontories, relentlessly sending out these little filaments of ourselves, hoping that they catch somewhere.
Keeping track of the number of hits we’ve managed to generate, checking our in-boxes for comments, hoping against hope that our posts or tweets or YouTube videos or whatever we’re sending out there will have made a connection with someone, somewhere.
And that thought warms my soul a bit.
Because the fact that so many of us are involved in this brave, foolish, all-too-human enterprise suggests that poor, isolated, misunderstood Walt Whitman was right. That we are all noiseless, patient spiders trying to connect with each other any which way we can.
And in a way that he never could have foreseen, after 150 years Walt’s silvery filaments are still reaching out across time and space, still catching hold.