What will your verse be?

What will your verse be? Asked Whitman more than a hundred years ago. What will your verse be? Ask the Apple guys in 2014.

Care to answer this one? Whether you saw the most recent Apple ad or not, you should. But first, let’s read and watch a bit more. The ad, deeply inspired by (read: copying) Dead Poets Society, reads as follows:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love – these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman,

“O me! O life! Of the questions of these recurring.
Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish.
What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer:
That you are here. That life exists and identity.
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?

Beautiful vistas and great poetry… Yes, it is an advertisement, but we can live with the logo at the end. Let’s not deplore the commercial use of the words of Whitman, who decided to pursue  to avoid the noise and waste of busy life. The use of free-thinkers inspirational hymns for mundane purpose has become a common practice.

Instead, let’s follow Whitman, and ask ourselves: “What will your verse be?

The web was born in 1994, and with the explosion of content and consumption device in the last two decades, there is so much content to read, listen, watch, that one can easily get consumed by it. Consume, yes. Get consumed, no. Yet, it is easy to get addicted consumption, be it through passive zapping or active research. It is emotionally fulfilling, in turn funny, sad, or inspirational. It can even be intellectually satisfying. This is breathing in. And TED.com, and so many other sites display great content, great pure air to breathe. Yet, should we stop there?

Are you breathing out? Whitman asks us: “What will your verse be?

What do you create? And beyond this what do you bring to the community? Whitman did not write his poems for himself. As recluse as he was, he was still a published poet and writer. He created for himself, certainly, but also for a purpose, for an audience (whom he wanted to enlighten about the misery of busy life). He created. And you can create too. With the democratization of creation tools, more people create today, on more supports. And you can too. What will your verse be?

Let’s consider this, as well: Whitman did not write “what will your poem be?”, he wrote “what will your verse be?”. Let’s ponder on this for a second. If few create, and most consume, there is little creativity. But if we all talk without listening to one another, it can quickly become a cacophony. My tiny little experience of jamming with other musicians showed me the deep emotional satisfaction and social bond that collaboration can create. So what will your verse be? Who will you write with? What poem will you contribute to?

With all the empowering tools of today, with the time you get, with the networks you weave… What will your verse be? Who will you write with? What poem will you contribute to?

Bonus:

Walt Whitman’s full poem is:

O Me! O Life!

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?

Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Source: Leaves of Grass (1892)

Sunset

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