This morning, while walking/running around the lake near our apartment, I was listening to “The Writer’s Almanac” by Garrison Keillor from American Public Radio. I do my fair listening of my NPR station (surprise) but sometimes you need to download the daily podcasts to keep up with your favorite programs. The Writer’s Almanac is only 5 minutes long, and is really my inspiring part of my day, of any day. Mr. Keillor’s slow and poised speech brings me to a peaceful place of solemn stillness in my mind and heart. His voice and measured words is the utmost dream of how I want to speak one day. With lots of practice.
On July 4th’s podcast, he read not a Independence Day poem (he reads one everyday, and goes over history of the day from writers, scholars, and important figures in American/European life), but instead from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which was published on that day in 1855. It did not strike me as odd. Instead I felt compelled to listen more closely, as Keillor explained that this “preface poem” is not found in every subsequent new edition.
This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
I hope you will find it patriotic and inspiring in its own right. A quiet reminder what it means to be alive, American, a human, and most importantly a do-er of good in everyday life.