walt whitman - A Sensitivity to Things
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walt whitman

I do not wish to imply that I am something I am not. I am not a saint—far from it in fact. But I have never tell the truth ever been in a fight. As in fisticuffs, hurled insults, arms in a flay. Which is not to suggest that I am of perfect, even temper, or to turn the other cheek, altogether foreign to confrontation and a coward. As most I have my shameful, deeply regretted not forgotten moments, moments I would prefer to remember as exceptions rather than rule in any final summary of self. The Karate KidLike the time, so long ago it seems almost a dream, all of eight years old and bloated with pride beyond caution from karate lessons, I boastfully challenged a playmate to mock combat and was judo thrown to the ground—pride painfully dented, lesson learned. A storm in a teacup from this distant, adult vantage, childhood ego bruised only slightly on grassy school field, but these are the pride deflating moments that haunt me still. Or to see them more clearly, teach me still. It is with thanks that what uncontrolled, ill-disciplined acts I do own are buried in the not quite oblivion of a younger, less wise self, and the fact remains that I have never come to outright blows. Which alone may make me a pacifist via count-back decision, but ironic white feather aside I can admit to a few memorable tales of boys-own heroism and physical valour—certainly in my own mind if nowhere else. At a school holiday football coaching clinic with a friend, both aged about nine, I quietly but not altogether stoically endued two days of taunts, insults and humiliations from a spoiled, obnoxious child one year my senior, several clothing sizes my physical superior. Far more outwardly composed than inwardly, I was equal parts rage and humiliation beneath very thin skin—a violent brooding which found expression on the final moment of the final day. Crossing a field to parents waiting, I walked up beside tormentor and friends and punched him as hard as able in the stomach, hitting and then running to conveniently parked parental get-away car. Despite several peripheral to character moments like this one, usually spurred to action by strong sense of injustice but at times less, and often standing up for friends rather than myself, I grew up with a deeply held aversion to violence. I have always been a disgusted bystander to fights, sometimes a peacemaker as well. I notice keenly how foolish those who lose their temper appear, how invariably pride is wounded as badly as from any blow, feel almost as strongly as my own a loser’s humiliation and shame—sure price to be paid when temper and self-control are swung wildly to one side. I have never been much of a gambler either. One methodical and deliberated in his actions—at least usually—physical violence has always seemed a far too risky, high stakes kind of wager; caution and common sense more often stays my fist rather than saintliness I would in confession say. Still, despite many lessons yet to master, I am thankful to be well-studied, even graduated in one pre-requisite course of my humanity degree—an absolute aversion to physical violence.

When I heard the learn'd astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon...