For many human beings, death is feared greatly. Maybe it is the mystery surrounding it, maybe it is mystery of what happens after it, or maybe it s the fear that one can no longer be with his or her loved ones. Whatever the case may be, it is a known fact that death can often lead to mourning, anger, and loneliness. In the poems To Think of Time and Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, however, Whitman presents a different perspective of death, in which he shows the positive aspects of death. In fact, Whitman presents the goodness and luck of death in his explanation of the eternal soul.
While Whitman s view of death may have differed from society, his own view remained the same, in both To Think of Time, and in the section of Song of Myself known as The Sermon (Chants 42-50). Here, Whitman presents a lecture of sorts, in which he guides human beings through the many aspects of their lives. Most important in this, though, is Whitman s perspective that human being should be accepting of death. In doing so, Whitman actually ends up describing a four-step process for all humans to accept death.
The first step Whitman describes to achieve this is acknowledging that there is a more important life waiting for us to embark upon after death. In Song of Myself, Whitman says, We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers; / There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them ( Myself, ll. 138-139). By saying this, Whitman is referring to the unimportance of his own and everyone else s own time on Earth, because it is a trivial amount of time when compared to the whole timeline of the planet.
Therefore, Whitman soon says how humans must recognize that there is a greater purpose, which will not be embarked upon until after death. He says, Have you feared the future would be nothing to you? Is today nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing? / If the future is nothing they are just as surely nothing ( Time, ll. 3-6). In saying this, Whitman reassures his reader that there truly is a life after death, which is just as important, if not more important than the life currently being lived.
According to Whitman, this will allow humans to accept it, because they will be able to not fear death as much, knowing that there will be something waiting for them on the other side. Lastly, by knowing that there is a more important life to be lived after death, human beings can hopefully live their life on Earth confidently, without the fear of losing everything someday. The second step for human beings is to pay less attention to the trivial pursuits of everyday life, and instead, look at the whole thing.
In Song of Myself, Whitman says, A few quadrillions of eras, a few octillians of cubic leagues, do not hazard the span, or make it impatient, / They are but parts . any thing is but a part ( Myself, ll. 1193-1194). Here, once again, Whitman explains the triviality of our life on this planet. But instead of sounding repetitive, Whitman expands on his idea when he says, These also flow onward to others . you and I flow onward; / But in due time you and I shall take less interest in them ( Time, ll. 61-62), after a short period of cataloguing, in which Whitman lists a series of things we tend to worry about in life.
Whitman is trying to tell his readers to get rid of all of their petty grievances, because in the end, they re not going to matter. Instead, humans should spend more time looking at life as a whole, specifically life after death. Finally, by doing this, one will be able to have a greater focus in life, on what Whitman would consider to be more important things, leading one to have a greater acceptance of death, because of the amount of preparation that has gone into it. Whitman s third step in accepting death is for humans to accept the path that they are given.
Whitman says, And I call to mankind, Be not curious about God, / For I who am curious about each am not curious about God, / No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death ( Myself, ll. 1271-1273). In other words, human beings should recognize when their time is up and should meet death with acceptance. Whitman then continues this idea when he says, The law of the past cannot be eluded, / The law of the present and future cannot be eluded, / The law of the living cannot be eluded . it is eternal ( Time, ll. 84-86). This law that Whitman describes is the basic truth that all human beings must die.
Whitman believes that all human beings must realize this, and at the same time, recognize that this law can never change for any circumstance. By realizing that death is something that all human beings must endure, Whitman believes that people can become more accepting about their own death, and the deaths of others. Therefore, in the end, humans can be concerned with living their lives after death, instead of doing everything in their power to prevent getting there. The fourth and final step Whitman gives for humans is to recognize the eternal soul.
Whitman says, It is not chaos or death . it is form and union and plan . it is eternal life . it is happiness ( Myself, l. 1308). Here, Whitman emphasizes the fact that a happy life continues after death, through the eternal soul, which lives on and on. Whitman continues this idea in To Think of Time, when he says, I swear I think there is nothing but immortality! / That the exquisite scheme is for it, and the nebulous float is for it, and the cohering is for it, / And all preparations is for it.. and identity is for it.. and life and death are for it ( Time, ll. 133-135).
Therefore, being like Whitman, which entails believing that there is no end to life, allows human beings to accept death. First, by believing in the eternal soul, human beings will have nothing to fear from death, because of the immortality of the soul. In following this last step, people will finally be able to hang up all of their fears of death and accept it, and will also be able realize that their eternal soul will live happily forever. Therefore, there should no longer be any reason to not accept death, since a belief in the eternal soul will prevent any fear of one s existence being ended.
In both Song of Myself and To Think of Time, Whitman presents four steps to human beings to achieve acceptance of death. In doing so, human beings may become more like Whitman, because they will be able to realize that life doesn t end after the time here on Earth, but instead continues eternally, for longer than anyone can imagine. Through the acknowledgement and acceptance of certain things, such as the path we are given, the existence of the eternal soul, the more important things in life, and the greater importance of life after death, human beings can become more accepting of death itself.
By realizing that death is not something that should be worried about, human beings can instead concentrate on making the most out their time on this planet. Whitman knows that as a whole, human beings probably fear death more than anything else. Therefore, Whitman knew that by presenting a step-by-step way for humans to be accepting of death, he could essentially appease those that are worried about the great beyond.