O Me! O Life! by WALT WHITMAN
Oh me! Oh 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 may contribute a verse.
Sitting down between heats of Arieals in the olympics, Robin Williams voice came in with a modified version of Walt Whittman’s poem “Oh Me! Oh Life!” His voice is from the Dead Poet’s Society, which is a wonderful movie if not a bit disturbing.
Why is this poem is appearing in an Apple Ad? I have not one idea. That’s not strictly speaking true. Apple sells products to people who think they are creative or are creative. For whatever reason, the product with the least amount of flexibility in set up and design has captured the market image of creativity and freedom.
Of course, I know that’s why I have all Apple products. I want to be seen as creative. The perception of reliability is pretty nice also.
However it’s the poem that struck me. The best poetry draws from the widest variety of sources and words and thoughts. Whittman pulls from experience and frustration and love, but he does not create ex nihilo or out of nothing. It’s more beautiful for it’s sources.
I cannot tell whether or not Whittman bought into the obsession of art ex nihilo, but I cannot help but think our “contribution of a verse” is our adding with our words, our thoughts, and our lives to the poem that is humanity. We neither brought ourselves out from nothing nor do we create out of nothing, but with the substance of our lives and our thoughts and the scope and the material we are allowed, we add what never came before.
Is that creation ex nihilo? How do we who add nothing new of substance or material still manage to imitate the most fundamental aspect of the divine, creativity? Is it creation ex nihilo to add our own stamp to reality?