Hendrickson Publishers. Larry D. Looking Through a Two-Way Mirror. Shirley Smith. Possessing Life Promise. Mecka Riles. Princess Ellis. Christian Belnavis. For Such a Time as This. Justene Martin. Dare to Dance: Tapping into Spiritual Renewal. Marva Allison. Faith: God Is Not Intimidated. Noah Daniels. Finding Joy at Christmastime. I Love You. Pamela Sue Lowe. Reflections Of God's Work. Jerri Broglin. Alexander Swinson. Saying Goodbye To Self. The Key to Transformed Thinking. Ronald Daugherty. A Moment with God for Graduates. Maribeth Walker.
Designed for a Purpose. Robert Hancock. Soul Meds: Rx for the Soul. Pam Beech. Preparing your Heart for Christmas. Terri L. Words of Inspiration on Love, Faith and Hope. Samuel Aigbe. Cold Pieces: God's Creation. Eric Lynn Thomas. Closer To Him. Tayo Knight. The Uncommon Devotional. Victor Couzens.
The Lost Sheep. Louise Onen. The Great Exchange. Don Mance. Love the Journey Now. Lorraine Piotrowski. There's Triumph in T. Debbie Rhodes. Please know, at least from my perspective, that you are providing a diverse range of faith conversations which are needed for this period of history. His creative practice and film making gently guides us through the rugged waters of mindless meandering we can see in the media.
They speak to both the restlessness of the journey of faith while also giving hope, not by avoiding the challenging questions but by speaking to them. The Work of the People models the authentic faith that spiritual pilgrims are seeking. Travis Reed is a gifted, talented filmmaker who brings theology into life! The Work of The People films are crucial assets to churches, organizations, schools and groups who are interested in understanding Christianity for today. These films are artistic, provocative and heartwarming! I so appreciate your work and the people, the thinking and the faith perspectives that it exposes me to And I am deeply grateful for your commitment to it and to the spirit in which you share it and make it available to people like me on the other side of the world!
It has been a huge blessing in my life and the life of a small group that I lead. The films are a wonderful avenue for spiritual growth. God bless you and the work you do!! Thanks for the work you do. It is inspiring and deeply prayerful! Travis Reed has created one of the richest and most holistic virtual library of spiritual leaders candidly sharing their thoughts and experiences in this troubling era Churches, home groups, intentional communities and individuals will find amazing gems to inspire and refuel.
I have no doubt they will make a real difference in the world and the way we think. I am absolutely loving the content so far. Adding Work of the People to my list of things that are saving me on a daily basis.
My cross to bear right now is big. My teenage son is in treatment for bone cancer. The Lent series has given me insight and comfort today. Thank you for your beautiful ministry! Thanks again for producing such an enlightening website, I have learned an awful lot which has equipped me well for my onward journey! Please keep up the great work. Hi Travis, Happy New Year! Thank you for your wonderful work.
It really is such a Blessing. So Spirit filled. Truly Good News. And thank you for your kindness and generosity. Glory to God. Peace and Blessings. Hey, Travis. I wanted to take a moment to thank you deeply for the healing work you do. I am so glad to have a yearlong subscription so that I can see images and hear words spoken which give me rest from a weary, discouraging day at the end of an exhausting year.
It's helping me to stay oriented toward light, when the darkness seems to keep calling. Your work is very important. Rich blessings. My prayers are with you to have strength to continue this work, to share your gifts which are so powerful and very much needed. I just wanted to thank you for this space. It has brought me hope and grace and room to breathe theologically. I am somewhat surrounded by the message of legalism and I cannot tell you what it means to be able to come here and feel Jesus. Just want you to know how much it means to me. Thankful for discovering your website as it has given me new language and hope during my journey of wrestling with the mystery of God.
Thanks for the great content. Don't know you, but I love you. I love your work and am so grateful to have access to good thinkers and compelling theology. You often offer clips that provide my teaching a 3rd dimension in a way that deepens our conversations as a community. Our church is truly intergenerational, and so… they also bridge the generational gap. Thanks so much for your hard work, Travis.
Your resources are unparalleled! Having access to such rich resources has enriched our small church ministry so much! Dear Travis, As we move into celebrations of Thanksgiving, I want to thank you for gathering such wise persons together to create these meaningful visuals. So often when I find it difficult to pray, I just spend time with your many videos.
God of compassion and mercy steps into my heart. Blessings on you and your loved ones. Your ministry enriches my life! For the vision of multicultural, multiracial, multi religious communion that keeps showing up in your work, I give deep thanks I just have to tell you that this site is already changing my life. I have been here for 2 days. I was raised in a very Pentecostal church. I graduated from a Bible college.
I was going to be in full time ministry. My theology started changing but no one else around me seemed to understand. My heart has always been for the LGBT community even when it didn't make sense to my Christian family. My heart is for the refugees, for the kids in school who have to be in special classes because they are emotionally disturbed. My heart is for the forgotten. It was not until I found your online church, the work of the people, that I have begun to felt fed again.
I am not at home in traditional church. God has never stopped speaking to me but now I can hear from other people who have been hearing the same message of hope. I knew I was not alone. I cried through the entire 13 minutes of Healing Justice. Thank you so much for this site. Thank you for seeking out Kallistos Ware. Your questions and the whole conversation was really enriching for me!
You are doing a good work. I want to thank you for the amazing witness that is The Work of the People. The work is inspiring, thought, and action provoking. I also want to thank you personally. A couple of years ago I was going through a pretty bad end to a relationship. Long story short, I had to go through my finances and cut pretty much all my subscriptions, etc.
I had to email you to request a cancellation of subscription. Not only did you cancel the subscription, but allowed me access for a while. Such a lesson in Grace and abundance. I learned that golden Truth that I am never "destitute. Years later, I have renewed my subscription:- I also now understand that what I thought was a horrible event, was the catalyst to my rebirth and Calling. The Work of the People has been so central during that process. Thank you again for your work of witness, generosity, and time.
Have a great day! The Work of the People and all that is involved is a gift for m God. I am grateful to have found it am always looking for new messages to share. I have invited others to join it. Peace and love be with you all. Travis Reed has been building a film archive of truth and beauty for some time now. Ecumenical bastard that I am, I am often at a loss to say whose house I belong to in the wider Christian community.
Browsing Travis' catalog is like walking into the family gathering I didn't know I had. Already today I've 'sat' with Parker J. Seriously, this is my jam. I so appreciate your work and feel that it is particularly important at this point in history. We have been using it as a resource in our faith community for many years, to the point where I finally bought a subscription myself. Thought-provoking, reflective, disturbing, encouraging are all words that I have used but mostly I would have to say validating - that I have discovered, partly through TWOTP that's it's OK to ask the questions and to have a "non-standard" approach to our spirituality.
God is big enough to cope with that. So, thanks again.
Keep up the good work In thanks,. Thank you so much for the amazing gift of your vision and your work to the wider church. Just saying hello and thanks! Nonetheless, I am grateful for the nurturing and discovery I encounter here for myself, which often translates in messages to "my" people. God bless you with transformation as you continue to serve. Thank you so much for your work at the Work of the People site I really do think you are doing some of the finest work I know about right now. I see you as a modern day John, preparing the way in the wilderness- dressed a little funny for some of the religious elites.
Never claiming to be The Light but pointing toward The Light and the lights. All the voices that are calling us to turn back or to push through. All the voices that are revealing the blueprints of the Kingdom and showing us how to build it. And all the voices that are incarnating the Word in a way that we can meet him today, even if we are total outsiders.
And for me, the beauty of your art lies in "we testify about what we have seen". The little bits of sarcasm I in you pieces I understand not only as your own voices from the past, but also as all of our daily doubts that I think all honest believers wrestle with. So as I watch, learn, have my breath taken away, faith strengthened and sole renewed, I feel like I get to see you daily converted back to passionate disciple, hungry to find the next witness.
I suscribe to The Work of The People for content. My thinking has radically changed primarily through these videos and I have been sharing this journey with this group. We operate this like we are enjoying home movies together, in a collaborative party-like atmosphere. Everyone is heard and everyone has say-so. I am like the Sunday morning V-J playing the need video whenever the conversation lulls. If you told me 3 months ago I would be doing this, I would have laughed in your face. And if you called me a pastor, I might have punched you or at least felt sad like failed to show love. I just see an obvious need and am equipped to help fill it, so here we are serving.
We sure are having a blast. Thank you for all you work, we love it. It's been a struggle, but it has been incredibly fruitful in ways I would not have expected. Your post was exactly what I needed as an encouragement to continue to live into this unique desert experience and be reminded that God's lens is what I am truly seeking to look through.
Thank you for the words, for the post, for your work. Thanks for sharing your story, Travis. I love it and the lesson it continues to teach me that God uses everyone to grow God's kingdom -- credentialed in the world's eyes or not. Keep up this great work. I and many others are richly blessed by it. Thanks so much for all your work - it was the spiritual oxygen we breathed many days as we deconstructed.
We were lay leaders who served in our church hours a week and just couldn't anymore we have six kids too Super hard. So thank you - thank you for being a harbor to many. Your work is sacred and it matters. The Holy Spirit through you and your work has touched so many of our students, even the "hard" ones, at their core. Thank you for being such a powerful instrument of God's grace. Dear all at The Work of the People, I wanted to make brief contact to say just how much I appreciate this site. I signed up several months ago and have found the site a real inspiration and joy.
I am an Anglican priest in the UK who had found myself increasingly disillusioned with much of organized religion and somewhat "adrift"! Through your wonderful website I have felt rejuvenated and reconnected. It has introduced me to some people whose work I was only vaguely aware of or totally unaware of and inspired me to pick up there books and read more. The work you do - which is of a high quality - is very much appreciated.
Thank you and bless you. Thank you for creating a place where the most respected minds around the world are distilling their most passionate and important thoughts into the bite size mega pixels that our brains can withstand in today's world. An entire novel or semester's course in 6m30s. Your questions hit the heart of what God's people long to know and hear, in a way that the answers provided actually sound like answers. I am an episcopal priest and I trust this website to teach my children who God is more than I would trust myself to teach them who God is.
I would like to tell you Travis, that my husband and I helped Pastor a church for 30 years. We left the church 2 years ago. I want you to know your work has absolutely been our life line in a very disorienting time. I want to tell you thank you and please know this from someone you will probably never meet.
My husband and I could not be more thankful for what you are doing and the message you are getting out. Thank you, Thank you. Stay strong and courages! So appreciate the beautiful work you are continuing to do!! It is so refreshing to see quality videos that are inspiring, have great theology, and connect to young people and certainly beyond…I just happen to work with young people. It was my first exposure to many of the people featured on your website, and several of them are 'saving' my faith journey.
I'm continually fed and growing because of the amazing work you do. Blessings in your work. Blessings on your day. So tonight I head off to Mercy Street the other one, not in Houston! So grateful you were born, heard a call and listened however stubbornly, as we all do and made these films. They are saving a group of lives in eastern Jackson County Missouri every Saturday night.
Grace and peace to you for one more day. Your great imaginative spirit and the use you make of it are a gift to us all. I am delighted when we can be together. With my love,. I came across one of your videos from a post that a culture and faith professor of mine posted and I have enjoyed the very heart of what your doing with The Work Of The People. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist student intern at the moment and in the process of my education and seeing clients within my profession I have had the privilege of meeting people and talking t them about a number of things that have been similar to those you interview.
It has brought me joy to know what you do exists and these are things people are talking about around the world even in the context of faith. I have been in ministry for about 10 years and have seen so much in that and my profession that has given me a different perspective on life. A good ministry partner of mine, who is also a Marriage and Family Therapist, and myself are leading a ministry here in the city of Las Vegas, NV that brings a different perspective to working with people from all types of backgrounds.
We have found that being a therapists has allowed us to see people in a different way and that way really has made it effective in seeing people where they are at and loving them where they are without the same traditional approaches we have learned throughout the Christian culture. Its been insightful and mind blowing to see how much we as people can cause harm to the holistic wellness of individuals, even in the name of Jesus.
That is where your videos and interviews have really helped us in this different perspective of loving and healing people where they are at. I wanted to let you know that I have been extremely blessed and touched by your work and would be honored to meet you and your team one day. We are currently finishing up The Ridiculous Journey a couple of sessions left to go , and the response has been overwhelmingly positive and appreciative by the class.
The videos excellent cuts as always Travis and the discussion questions and stories by Rich have hit home with folks on multiple levels. It is touching folks in different ways and places in their life, evoking deeper journeys into their faith and life. Each week folks are sharing personal experiences and fresh perspectives that the series and our conversations are eliciting for them. Those conversations, offered with vulnerability, move us closer as a group where growth and accountability are the fruits. It is truly Kingdom building work! If you are ever in Fort Worth, drop in and join the conversation.
I suspect you will be greeted as cherished friends because of your gifts we have enjoyed. I'm super thankful for you and your heart brother. God has used your art to open me up and bring massive freedom in my life. I recently learned about the Work of the People while collecting some material for use in a peacemaking workshop series I was leading. I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I appreciate your work, its incredible quality, depth, range, all of it. I hope you keep doing this, that you are sufficiently supported by the people who use your work, and that you feel encouraged and appreciated as you go.
Hi Travis, Want to thank you and your team for compiling all of these wonderful videos! Truly amazing, they have made me laugh, cry and everything in between! About 9 months ago I sensed God challenging me to abandon my old theology that which was motivated by fear, need for clarity, and dualistic thinking. As I began "unlearning" these things, religion, legalism, and black and white thinking faded away. And I no longer see a divide between the sacred and the secular. Anyway, just wanted to thank you because your website has given me a lot of hope for "Christians".
I wanted to share some feedback affirmations with you I work in ministry in a small rural congregation that has not done a lot of 'study' or small group things. They have tended to think of themselves as not doing 'that sort of thing'. But it's part of ministry I LOVE and I have been slowly inviting them and introducing them to some different options and have had a group meeting off and on for a year or so now - maybe 5 - 7 people or so.
We have had up to 15 people in one day and many are people who haven't come to things before. Just to give you an idea - our Sunday worship numbers average about 23 people - so 15 is huge!!
And of course it's not about the numbers - but the depth that people have been willing to go - sparked by these short moments of reflection by some wonderful people has been truly awesome. Thank you for your work and I hope this little story gives you a sense of the seeds you have planted - even way up north near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, on the Red River : Blessings. You are doing fantastic work. I hope you know that.
I literally bring people in my office almost on a daily basis and show them these videos and they leave in tears and in hope. Keep going, your Father in heaven is so proud of you :. Just amazing work. I am at a particularly difficult place right now in my life. I am struggling with a broken relationship, financial difficulties and a host of other problems. I really was close to giving up and finding this site and the videos saved me and changed my anxiety to the peace that passes all understanding.
It helped give me that little mustard seed of hope to hang on. It also made me want more faith, more love, more mercy. Thank you so much. You changed my life. By the way, I have never in my whole life written anything like this. You have blessed me so much I had to write. Dear Travis, I love, love, love your work. In fact, I treated myself to a subscription this year because I wanted to savor the beauty and truth you bring to light.
Thank you for doing this risky, costly work. The journey that has made you who you are and brought you to this place is such a gift to me. Thanks for sharing your art with the world. Love the way you shoot the videos. I literally felt like I was on holy ground when I was watching the piece with Jean Vanier. When I put it together, I realized why he is so set apart. I write to you with great joy and gratitude.
I pray that the work that God has began in you will continue until its full completion. I have received the gift of a free subscription to your website. It has opened my heart to new horizons and seems to have formed my heart in even a greater tenderness.
About 7 years ago at the age of 26 I gave up all my material goods and have lived a tremendous journey from life as a hermit in Texas, to living side by side with the homeless in many different cities, most recently in the streets with the Navajo in Gallup, New Mexico. I have found that this website will help me love those who have been passed by - by the rest of society. I will continue to pray for this most beautiful work of yours. Just wanted to reach out and tell you how much I love this site!
It has been - and still is - such an amazing tool in the development of my spirituality, and also very helpful in realizing that maybe I'm not a heretic at all. Thanks again for all your great work,. You probably get these types of emails all the time but I wanted to say thank you! The way that you ask questions and the folks represented on the work of the people are helping me to grow and change.
I started a program in spiritual direction a year ago and soon after stumbled upon your good work. It continues to blow me away. Thank you for this gift which blesses and impacts so many, pushing us on in the great tasks before us. Thank You. Thank you for what you have created and are continuing to create. Keep leading. This is important content!
The Work of the People is doing something both exceptional and essential for the life of the gospel in the world. Our fallen minds are always covering over God's marvels, and his alarming demands with what Coleridge called 'the film of familiarity. Travis Reed lifts off that film of familiarity by making films of unfamiliarity, films in which we can hear he gospel fresh, in all its scandal and mystery. He has a way of throwing unexpected questions at his interviewees which releases from them an unexpected grace. Travis Reed is absolutely brilliant at drawing out these stories and bringing the kingdom to life in unique and beautiful ways.
The films on the Work of the People are a gift to churches, groups, and individuals longing for challenge, inspiration, beauty, and hope. The Work of the People films are pure gold! Travis Reed has a unique gift for coaxing the best gems out of significant thinkers, theologians, writers, leaders, and turning it into a work of art. Travis Reed is a theological artist doing important and creative work. Travis Reed has the unique and rare gift of being an old soul who has tech savvy. He's deeply grounded and clear-minded, which is why theologians, authors and scholars trust him to share their ideas in ways that will be congruent to who they are.
TWOTP videos do what all good technology ought to do- connect people in a meaningful way, generate life-giving conversation and thought, and provoke the imagination of God's people. I love working with Travis, and I love watching his work with others. I'm so grateful for his contributions and I hope that many churches, small groups and individuals are making use of his impressive cadre of resources.
If you already know all the right answers to all the right questions, TWOTP will probably not be very useful. The Work of the People is like no other resource—bringing together a wildly diverse collection of prophetic voices speaking of faith, God, and the meaning of life. The videos are hauntingly beautiful, the depth of wisdom stunning. Yet at the same time there is a playful quality to the whole endeavor so that I find myself laughing gratefully at the sheer creativity of the work.
Travis, I just felt compelled this morning to tell you, the work you're doing is continuing to shape my theology, and my being. So beautiful man. Gr8ful for you, your work, your vision. Peace and Love to you. I just want you to know that I believe the work you are doing for the Kingdom and the church is immeasurably beautiful!
I can not thank you enough for the hard work, travel, and sacrifices you are making to make The Work of The People a reality filled gift to the Kingdom and to the Trinity. I love your stuff, too! I've used it here at work Appalachia Service Project so much. This summer, I'm sending out videos for our summer staff to watch and discuss on Sunday mornings before their volunteers arrive. I've also used the Advent and Lent videos and guides for our permanent staff.
Keep it coming. The Visual Liturgy that you have and continue to give birth to, stirs the waters deep within. And to that I am grateful to you for being open to the Holy Mystery. Which ultimately led to my purchase of an annual subscription for downloads. Keep fanning the flames. TWOTP has been a great blessing to me. I really enjoy the videos and they spark visions of beauty and love! We have had one small group discussion on one and it went great. Thanks for all the work you do, it is truly helping a generation connect with ideas, thoughts, and theology through out Christian history from the the best of contemporary leaders of our time.
Personally, your videos have been important for my own imagination and faith. And for our church, I believe they are that and much more. You are doing amazing work. Thank you! I host a Welcome concert for farm workers to say thank you and welcome - 2 of the most powerful words that are transforming our community. I think your work is critically important, soulful and beautiful. Thank you for what you do. It matters so much. We need your vision and voice. Thank you for your art that is worship.
I cannot imagine this time without your work. Indebted and grateful,. Thanks so much for what you do. Our congregation would not be what it is without your faithful work. We're moved and challenged by your videos weekly. With the changing of the way I see god and people your recourses have become a important part of my journey.
I'm using the videos in two settings beyond my growth. At the gatherings of our church plant in Bertram, TX and with the education and training of hospice workers in Austin where I'm the spiritual care coordinator. I wanted to send a "thank you" email for the incredible work you are doing. No doubt you are using your gifts to impact the church and as a pastor of a small church in the Seattle area your stuff is a great encouragement to me and my staff. We don't have the expertise, time or budget to do such excellent things and I am so grateful! Thought provoking, honest, real, and engaging.
We use your videos in worship and I use them for sermon prep and to engage my staff. We are a small church trying to revitalize in the most diverse zip code in Bellevue.
A great challenge! They are also a great muse for my sermon prep - hard to keep a preacher going, ya know! I believe in the work and the ministry you are doing with TWOP. It has been and I hope will continue to be part of my ministry. I have seen first hand the impact on a directee part of her discernment for becoming an Episcopal priest.
I suggested first Sarah Bessey and from there we worked the vocation series. She has two huge sheets of paper in her small room at the host family's home in the Philippines. The poet feels himself open outward, perhaps in a moment of inward integration, but can only cast his filaments into empty spaces. Like the spider standing on a promontory or headland at the edge of a sea and throwing filaments into the air with no promise of land for anchoring, the poet has reached the limit of his powers.
Young man: I think this face of your the face of my dead Christ. O silent eyes! For then I thought of you oer the world O latent oceans, fathomless oceans of love! O waiting oceans of love! The desire of the spider-poet faintly sounds a predatory note in this version, a dangerous emotion that is suppressed at the time of the writing and purged by the time the poem is finally published in the years after the war. From an ecopoetical perspective, the poem is not sanitized cleaned to the point of lifelessness or censored erased because of market considerations so much as it is emptied.
The web brings hints to him certain signs but not satisfaction food. In Leaves of Grass , Whitman regularly linked sexual desire, particularly homoerotic desire, with the processes of the living earth. And what is most noteworthy for ecopoetics is that with the onset of the more secretive mood, the connection with the solid earth—insofar as it is indicated by attention to detail—seemed to weaken as well.
Of the real world of materials, what, after all, are these specks we call knowledge? Not more helplessly does the tongue or the pen of man, essay out in the spiritual spheres, to state them. In this view, the next step in the composition would be the development of the manuscript poem with the spider-poet hungry for the love of the stranger. Two concepts revealed here—resonance and indirection—deserve lingering over.
Resonance is implied in the worm and spider tropes—in the vibrating filaments that represent the tentative connections with the earth. The considerable theoretical power that the concept holds for ecopoetics is suggested in the work of the sociologist and systems theorist Niklas Luhmann. Think of a dictionary definition. When we use language to describe impressions we receive from the environment, we inevitably begin to talk about something other than the things that present themselves to us.
Language is thus communicative but necessarily reductive. By contrast, resonance suggests the prelinguistic sensory impressions, the data, that once formed into language become information. LG —92,; emphasis added Indirection appears frequently in statements Whitman makes about his poetics, particularly when he is trying to say what is unique about his own method. In one sense, an indirection is simply a trope, a figure of speech or thought—an analogy, a metaphor, a parable.
Complementary to this positive meaning, however, is the negative implied in the prefix of indirection. In this sense, it is a poetic feature that actively resists the direct, the literal, the conventional, and thus represents an attempt to create or dramatize resonance, to simulate for the reader the experience of the body or interaction with the environment through the use of language while trying to avoid the self-referentiality of language. It is an attempt to extend the linguistic experience beyond its usual limits by calling attention to those very limits.
You unseen force, centripetal, centrifugal, through space's spread, Rapport of sun, moon, earth, and all the constellations, What are the messages by you from distant stars to us? What central heart—and you the pulse—vivifies all? What subtle indirection and significance in you? Observing, rapport, and with intuition, the shows and forms presented by Nature, the sensuous luxuriance, the beautiful in living men and women, the actual play of passions, in history and life—and, above all, from those developments either in Nature or human personality in which power, dearest of all to the sense of the artist , transacts itself—out of these, and seizing what is in them, the poet, the esthetic worker in any field, by the divine magic of his genius, projects them, their analogies, by curious removes, indirections , in literature and art.
No useless attempt to repeat the material creation, by daguerreotyping the exact likeness by mortal mental means. This is the image-making faculty, coping with material creation, and rivaling, almost triumphing over it. This alone, when all the other parts of a specimen of literature or art are ready and waiting, can breathe into it the breath of life, and endow it with identity.
For this would-be aspirant, the Whitman offers advice on the proper setting for reading his work. The message is, stay close to the earth: 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 of the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and Earth in every motion and joint of your body.
LG , vi. Sustaining this resistance often proves troublesome for Whitman. The problem arises with tropes of identity and association—metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and allegory—all of which function powerfully in the ecological imagination. Rather than dwelling upon limits and incapacities, such tropes may tend to overwhelm difference, often to the point of insensitivity. For ecopoetics, metaphor is particularly problematical because it is a form of language that identifies two ostensibly unlike things. But metaphors appear to have little respect for such boundaries, leaving tension and irony sometimes unintended irony where difference had once prevailed.
Perhaps even more problematical is personification, the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman entities. Personification may be seen as a subcategory of metaphor because of its interest in identity, but it also partakes of metonymy and synecdoche when it involves a looser form of association. I remember an exercise in zoology lab designed to cure us college sophomores of this form of wit. We were directed to watch a group of white mice in a wire cage and make notes about how they behaved.
Alienation and division, consonant with the prohibition of anthropomorphism, prevailed over integration and holism. Division, implied in the very word environment , signifying that which surrounds, found its way into literary theory and practice as well as science. Finally, it appears in the work of recent nature writers such as Edward Abbey, who reject personification as a sentimentalist relic that interferes with the Zen-like contemplation of the earth as the wholly other.
Whitman bucked the trend of making clear separations between human beings and nonhuman nature. Though his practice might be seen as another instance of belatedness, a nostalgic drift back into Romantic nature poetry or the elaborate conceits of the English metaphysical poets, his excessiveness, his very wildness, argues against this possibility, as does the complexity of his tropes, some of which defy easy categorization. Leaves of Grass pushed the limits of this trope, as it did with so many others, especially in the energetic performances of the first three editions.
In doing so, it anticipated a number of important conflicts in twentieth-century thinking about the human relationship with the earth. One of the great ironies of ecopoetics, a sure indication that the study of poetic form must take account of multiple contexts, is that identification with the earth, as represented in personification and other tropes, serves not one but all three of these perspectives depending upon the context and the way the elements of the trope—person and natural object—interact and reflect one upon the other.
Far-swooping elbowed earth! Rich apple-blossomed earth! Smile, for your lover comes! O unspeakable passionate love! Thruster holding me tight and that I hold tight! We hurt each other as the bridegroom and bride hurt each other. You sea! I resign myself to you also. I guess what you mean, I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers, I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me; We must have a turn together. I undress. I can repay you. LG , 27 In what is for Whitman a typical move, this passage eroticizes the seemingly innocuous category of nature lover with rhetoric calculated to shock sentimental sensibility as surely as it denies the separation of human from nonhuman.
Its dark and inviting moisture resists the old myths of sweet maternity, imperious sublimity, or cool indifference, just as the poet who reads the signs of desire in the crooked fingers of the sea, rushing to undress and exchange amorous wetness with the willing partner, defies the stereotype of the nature poet calmly contemplating a picturesque scene or paralyzed before the sublime vision of an all-powerful nature. Indeed, the idea of spending and overspending permeates the passage. From the excessiveness of the earth itself—the effusive productivity that Thoreau marveled over and that Annie Dillard would come to celebrate in her brilliant prose work Pilgrim at Tinker Creek —Whitman extrapolates a model of loving that refuses to be limited by the penny-pinching standards of the Victorian sexual economy.
But another economy urges caution here. And yet the science and nature writers who have been most influential in twentieth-century political ecology have employed a personifying rhetoric. The deer then destroy their own food supplies, stripping the mountain of its vegetation and driving themselves into starvation. From the vantage of its mighty stature and the wisdom of its many years, the mountain—quite clearly a personification of ecological consciousness—sees the big picture and understands the whole story that deer and people cannot comprehend Leopold — Environmentalist rhetoric thus moves toward literalizing the personification of the earth.
In this literalizing argument, the resistance to the direct and literal that indirection implies tends to dissolve along with the separation of human beings and nature implied in the concepts of system and environment. The personifying rhetoric of the political ecologists thus departs from the normal practices of two centuries in scientific discourse. Political ecologists personify in spite of the aesthetic and scientific objections to this figurative reintegration and identification with the earth. This calculated rhetorical risk has definite political consequences.
Division might actually be politically productive, as any attempt to figure the world in human terms invites the kind of human-centered understanding of existence that can lead to the unwise or immoral treatment of the nonhuman.
We find in Leaves of Grass the contradictory impulses to stress, on the one hand, the unity of human and nonhuman nature, which may lead to exploitation through an uncritical assertion of spiritual if not material identity, and, on the other hand, to preserve the integrity of the earth as an environment distinct from human interests and society. But I have listened carefully to the critique of that position, particularly as developed by Robert Leigh Davis and James Perrin Warren. My argument proceeds along similar lines in this chapter but with more attention to the ecological consequences of the trend toward abstraction.
In using an object of nature as a point of departure for a metaphysical reflection, the two poems resonate within a long tradition of nature poetry, which goes back at least to the seventeenth century among writers in English. Leave thy low-vaulted past! Holmes lived in Boston, on the Atlantic Coast of the United States, and the nautilus is a creature at home in the deep waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
One of the great taxonomists among nineteenth-century scientists, remembered now as an opponent of Darwin as well as a defender of polygenesis and an exponent of racialist thought , Agassiz is still cited in the scientific literature on the chambered nautilus for correctly identifying it as a distinct species of the mollusks classed as cephalopods, related to the octopus, the squid, and the cuttlefish but the only living mollusk to have a complete external shell. The shell of the so-called paper nautilus the subject of a later poem by Marianne Moore dedicated to Elizabeth Bishop is an egg case excreted only by the female.
Science would wait more than a hundred years for photographs of the creature in its natural habitat, which generally lies below a safe depth for human diving. The vagueness could be partly the result of missing information. Unlike the cuttlefish, which is generously described, the nautilus could not be known through observation or dissection.
Within four lines, the ship has become a bird unfurling its sails like wings, and by the end of the first verse the nautilus has been implicitly compared to Ulysses, the hero who heard the Sirens sing. In his letters, Holmes admitted that some readers had noted the mistake. As the stories about both are mere fables, attaching to the Physalia, or Portuguese man-of-war, as well as these two molluscs, it seems over-nice to quarrel with the poetic handling of a fiction sufficiently justified by the name commonly applied to the ship of pearl as well as the ship of paper.
His irritation is worth noting because it demonstrates the competing claims for closeness to nature between the literary and scientific discourses of the day. It reminds me of the irritation of a scientist I met who told me that he resented the criticisms of poets and activists who say that science distances itself from nature through measurement and objectivity. This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not.
Significantly, this theme does not resonate strongly with Holmes and Whitman. What Holmes took away from his reading was the notion that the pagans may have been more completely attuned to nature than are modern people. This notion he rejects even as he alludes to Wordsworth. Whereas the pagan falls in worship before the power of nature, creating gods of the moon and sea, the scientist-poet sees natural objects as sources of information and lessons on life.
Among the poets, we find the three views of nature, which compete, conflict, interact, and overlap in modern ecological discourse—nature as spirit the dominant view among mystics and many activists , nature as an object of study the dominant view in science , and nature as resource the dominant view of business and industry.
The Romantic sense of the sublime restores the beauty and meaning of nature including human nature in a protest of the disenchanted industrial model of a dead nature reduced to supplying the material needs of human progress. Holmes strikes a more modern note by invoking the view of nature as an object of study. This view potentially differs from the view of nature as resource in its close attention to the object, the respectful care of the observation, and in the best case, the treatment of the object as a thing in itself, beyond its usefulness for human consumption.
The view shares an enthusiasm for the object with the view of nature as spirit but differs in invoking a sense of distanced curiosity instead of the sublime sense of wonder. Bryant, in Ellmann 32 More so than Holmes and Whitman, Bryant follows directly in the tradition of English metaphysical poetry, owing more to the seventeenth century than to Romantics like Wordsworth who lament the loss of natural powers. Once again, the observation of nature leads the poet to reflect not on natural objects but on the supernatural.
In contrast to earlier Christian poets, Bryant offers not the consolation of a biblical, doctrinal, or personal God but a more general deific force and thus participates in a progressive secularization of nature poetry, which becomes increasingly humanistic in Holmes and Whitman. I would argue that its attractiveness also stems from its easy recognition as a nature poem in the old tradition. LG, —92, Metaphor binds the objects it joins—here the spider and the soul—in a web of identity that ideally reveals a third element. In this poem, for example, we could say that the third element is thematic—the heroic will of natural beings to live beyond their limits.
Read in this way, the metaphor imposes the human will for power upon the natural object, the spider or the nautilus, and the poems function ideologically. They substitute history, specifically the drive for human progress that obsessed nineteenth-century Americans, for nature—a characteristic move, according to the leading theorists of ideology. What is often being argued. Metaphor often provides the rhetorical means by which ideological ends are enacted. But in practice, one or the other of the two elements may so dominate the trope that the other becomes a mere vehicle for celebrating some aspect of the dominant element.
And the convention of nature poetry we are considering tends to reduce nature to a vehicle for the celebration of some human or divine quality. Thus decontextualized, brought into the poetic laboratory, the waterfowl, the nautilus shell, and the spider appear first as objects of study but are ultimately abstracted into human lessons. These reflective nature poems share something with the extractive practices of modern industry, treating natural objects as resources consumed for human purposes.
The delicate shells lay on the shore; The bubbles of the latest wave Fresh pearls to their enamel gave, And the bellowing of the savage sea Greeted their safe escape to me. I wiped away the weeds and foam, I fetched my sea-born treasures home; But the poor, unsightly, noisesome things Had left their beauty on the shore With the sun and the sand and the wild uproar.
Emerson, in Ellman 38 Emerson follows convention in driving toward a lesson at the end of the poem, but it is a lesson that resists abstraction, distance, and division, preferring instead to offer a critique of the human mind that would divide truth from beauty: Then I said, "I covet truth; Beauty is unripe childhood's cheat; I leave it behind with the games of youth;"— As I spoke, beneath my feet The ground-pine curled its pretty wreath, Running over the club-moss burrs; I inhaled the violet's breath; Around me stood the oaks and firs; Pine-cones and acorns lay on the ground; Over me soared the eternal sky, Full of light and of deity; Again I saw, again I heard, The rolling river, the morning bird;— Beauty through my senses stole; I yielded myself to the perfect whole.
A fascinating claim in Traherne is that the Christian experience restores the childlike perception, that the idea of being born again includes the possibility of awakening again the wonder of nature. Emerson takes the Romantic path that follows from Traherne farther than any other American poet of his time. He virtually sinks into nature. Grounded in this way, the reflections on truth and beauty seem as much an opportunity to allow the poetic sensibility to play over a natural scene as an occasion to assert a philosophical view.
In linking manifest destiny to a view of nature as a boundless resource base for human expansion, the poem can only offend the sensibilities of modern environmentalists and proponents of environmental justice. Custer appears in the poem as a reminder of the heroic times of the Civil War, a past that Whitman feared was slipping from the hold of American memory.
The hero dies surrounded by hostile forces both human and natural. Whitman uses the word literally to indicate surroundings. In both instances, a seemingly prophetic connotation of danger foretells the modern use of environment as a synonym for the nonhuman world.
The ascendant race is threatened by the earth and the dusky savage, identified in the environmental mythology as forces threatening civilization, both less than fully human. Farewll my brethren, Farwell O earth and sky, farewell ye neighboring waters, My time has ended, my term has come. You untold life of me, And all you venerable and innocent joys, Perennial hardy life of me with joys 'mid rain and many a summer sun, And the white snows and night and the wild winds; O the great patient rugged joys, my soul's strong joys unreck'd by man, For know I bear the soul befitting me, I too have consciousness, identity, And all the rocks and mountains have, and all the earth, Joys of the life befitting me and brothers mine, Our time, our term has come.
Nor yield we mournfully majestic brothers, We who have grandly fill'd our time, With Nature's calm content, with tacit huge delight, We welcome what we wrought for through the past, And leave the field for them. For them predicted long ago, For a superber race, they too grandly fill their time, For them we abdicate, in them ourselves ye forest kings! In them these skies and airs, these mountain peaks, Shasta, Nevadas, These huge precipitous cliffs, this amplitude, these valleys, for Yosemite, To be in them absorbed, assimilated. LG —92, — Whitman, who had never seen a redwood tree in the wild, retreats from his early commitment not to make poems distilled of other poems, as if lacking the experience or the energy to celebrate the redwoods with the evocative and suggestive images of his greatest poetry.
Samuel Clemens saw a similar exhibit in Philadelphia in the early s. Whitman makes no mention of the exhibit, but it is just the kind of event he relished, and the features of the bark and the impressive height could well have lodged in his memory and resurfaced in when the poem was written, a time when redwoods were the frequent subject of scientific writing, as Kirk shows. Worse yet, the language of the poem—the mention of superior races and assimilation, for example—nods toward the darker side of manifest destiny, the racist logic that at the time Whitman wrote the poem was used to uproot indigenous peoples from their land so that white settlements could grow and dominate the western United States.
We hear vaguely the hint of doubt that Whitman may have felt—a remnant of the American Indian perspective? Another explanation arises from an analysis of personification as a trope of identity. But the note of resignation issuing from the old trees martyred to the march of progress may have an autobiographical source as well. Whitman composed the poem in the autumn of during what seems to have been a spell of depression. He had suffered a stroke in January of that year that left him paralyzed on his left side and forced him to leave his government job in Washington, D.
He complained of dizziness and continued lameness in his left leg. As if some miracle, some hand divine unseal'd my eyes, Shadowy vast shapes smile through the air and sky, And on the distant waves sail countless ships, And anthems in new tongues I hear saluting me. In this respect, his writing in the s foreshadowed the work of critics like Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson who built an ecopolitical sensibility on the foundation of a profound identity with the land and its creatures in an era of massive industrialization.
For Whitman, the identification with the redwoods was not strong enough to override his faith in material progress—a faith that he had committed himself to celebrating as the poet of America. With these conflicting identities—the kind of conflict that would keep the American public in the years to come alternately attracted to and suspicious of environmentalist politics—the poet could not find the energy to allow the ambivalence hinted in the poem to mature into a full-scale critique. Ironically, his lack of critical energy may have resulted from the same resignation and the same illness that permitted his identity with the redwoods in the first place.
The perspective of nature as resource overwhelms the perspective of nature as spirit. The latter departs, replaced in the public mind by a soulless materialism in which the earth is a dead thing to be exploited by a swarming and busy human race. He is at his best as a local poet, a loyal son of the New York islands.
When he tries to expand to global proportions, or even when he strives for continental and national coverage, his rhetoric appears falsely inflated, a great balloon floating over a landscape he cannot touch but can only see abstracted at a distance, like a map with dots for cities and random-seeming names. In this mode, he tends to treat nature as an abstraction—Nature with a capital letter; the idea of Nature rather than the things, patterns, and processes of the material earth; Nature emptied of its earthy contents and filled with human politics and history.
When he globalizes, he happily celebrates the accomplishments of technological progress, some of which in fact may have been troublesome for him when they cropped up in his own backyard. He crowed with praise for the engineering achievement of the Mississippi River bridge in St. The idea of sacred places, which I consider more fully in chapter 4, proves to be a key concept in ecopoetics, indicating not only a personal commitment to geographic loyalty but also a sense of limits. As people stray from their own bioregion, they retain something of its character even when the journey is primarily imaginative.
The creative spirit, which Whitman addresses as his soul, thrives best and inspires most fully when it arises like a local deity from the ground where the poet has lived and walked and loved. Industry surged in the years following the Civil War, riding the crest of wartime engineering and foreshadowing the runaway technological expansion in the years following World War II, which was also advanced by military research and development, the cold war feeding what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, the dominance of which ultimately led to the series of political reactions we now know as the environmentalist movement.
As a New Yorker, Whitman would have been particularly sensitive to the development of transportation and communication technology. Thanks to steam-powered travel and the telegraph, messages arrived from Europe in about a week and a half, as opposed to the month and a half required a hundred years earlier.
More messages were sent to and received from New York than from any other city in the United States. New York boasted seven daily newspapers, a hundred weeklies, and more than fifty monthlies. The seventeen publishing companies produced a third of the books printed in the United States.
And advertising was evolving from a simple product-information business into the persuasive and pervasive force we know today, flooding people with words and images against which to measure their material status and accomplishments. Lo, soul, seest thou not God's purpose from the first? The earth to be spann'd, connected by network, The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage, The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near, The lands to be welded together. He connects communication technology, including literature it would seem, directly to the imperialist spirit in this passage, for example: Long ere the second centennial arrives, there will be some forty to fifty great States, among them Canada and Cuba.
When the present century closes, our population will be sixty or seventy millions. The Pacific will be ours, and the Atlantic mainly ours. There will be daily electric communication with every part of the globe. What an age! What a land! Where, elsewhere, one so great? The individuality of one nation must then, as always, lead the world. Can there be any doubt who the leader ought to be? Bear in mind, though, that nothing less than the mightiest original non-subordinated SOUL has ever really, gloriously led, or can ever lead.
CPCP 4. Who bind it to us? What is this earth to our affections? LG —92, In this key passage, Whitman conceptually divides the material earth from abstract Nature. A hint of something like professional jealousy leads him to insist upon the importance of the poet in the creation of the modern technological wonders. The poet of the people—the shaman who shows the way between reality and the soul—now seems more concerned with calming the anxieties of the restless as well as his own anxieties with a paternal hand, subduing resistance to the workings of the social order.
On the one hand, the poet is equated with the Christian savior, the Son of God. The god-poet, we are told, will reclaim the dead earth as a resource to be refined into transcendental Nature fit for nurturing the human soul. But for the present, the earth must remain under the dominion of the engineers and materialists, who master its challenges with their powerful tools and look upon it as a resource base to satisfy human appetites and ambitions. The concept of the soul also changes in this poem. Rather than the creative communing animus, the invited soul that resonates with the earth, by means of which poetry realizes connections and aligns the body and mind with heaven and earth, the soul takes on the qualities normally attributed to it in the dominant Protestant theological tradition, the means by which human consciousness is elevated above the material earth and its nonhuman creatures.
The soul grows haughty: O sun and moon and all you stars! Sirius and Jupiter! Passage to you! Passage, immediate passage! Away O soul! Cut the hawsers! Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough? The very stars and planets stir the desire for new territory, new frontiers. I would annex the planets if I could. The concept of the soul as a lonely spider reaching for distant spheres with an untiring but uncertain spinning of light filaments yields to the concept of the soul as a brave explorer confidently setting sail for the stars, repressing all doubts and urged forward by the questing imperialist thunder of the national poet.
I do not ask any more delight. LG , I do not want to overstate the differences between the prewar and postwar poems. No doubt there are continuities. But the mood of that remarkable earlier poem is far more welcoming to the modern ecological intelligence. There the earth, after the moment of alienation passes, appears to him as a great compost heap, its marvelous chemistry yielding miracles of rebirth.
Out of the putrid rot of death comes nourishment for the human body resources to be consumed and enjoyed , for the mind objects full of meaning and interest , and for the spirit objects full of beauty and models for creativity. LG —92, The poem depends upon the gestalt of the alternating trope. It can never be entirely one or the other without some form of self-deception or inflated rhetoric, usually a claim of total identity with the earth or a full transcendence of it, both of which signal an imposition of ideology, a transformation in which the earth is overwhelmed by the social and psychological needs of the poet or in which the social or psychological reality is denied and the illusion of a pure earth poetry is offered to the rightly skeptical reader.
No doubt Whitman remains firm in his commitment to be the poet of the body. Not only the quantity but also the character of the usage changes. Nowhere in the poems does Whitman use religion —a term usually associated with formal practices and institutions—to describe his own project as he does in In he more commonly mentions religion as something to be overcome or at best tolerated by the all-accepting personality, as in the following lines: We consider the bibles and religions divine.
In the final version, the most unsettling passage appears in Section On my way a moment I pause, Here for you! They become as insubstantial as breath. But unlike the ephemeral sounds of the wind and rain and the cries of animals in the forest, Indian breath has formed words that have attached to places and natural features such as rivers and mountains.
The words retain a place in the new culture after Native peoples depart. The suggestion, then, is that unlike the departing redwoods, which depend upon the poet to hear them and give them voice, the souls of Indians remain in the places they have inhabited, living on in indigenous languages used as place names. As for the living American Indians of his time, however, Whitman could see no future.
In focusing on language, the naming power of the Native peoples, Whitman suggests a hierarchical chain of being. The vision here gives us the great American West, the buffalo and wigwam and backwoods villages left behind, transformed into a sprawling nineteenth-century version of New York City with its powerful technologies of transportation and communication, its shops and factories, its working people elevated to high offices and occupations, and of course its beloved poet enjoying the echoes of his songs in every corner of the transformed world.
The word that Whitman often used for inner conflict was perturbation. Among other biographers, Gay Wilson Allen has shown how by the s the poet associated the word particularly with the turmoil he felt over homosexual desires that occasionally threatened to boil to the surface in ways he must have deemed inappropriate Solitary Singer Whitman often represented perturbation as an unquenchable heat or inner fire and resorted particularly to the image of flame with its phallic suggestiveness. He jotted down.
And who but I should be the poet of comrades? We have already seen him transform the spider metaphor to eliminate the predatory aspect and censor the homoerotic element. For more on Calamus , see chapter 5. Many scholars influenced by New Criticism and Freudian psychoanalysis have proposed that Whitman achieved an admirable sublimation, an artistic achievement that transcended the passions tormenting him, as he became increasingly aware of his own consuming and exclusively homosexual passion.
He says he will turn the flames that threaten to consume him outward, releasing them to the world as poetry. In seeming defiance of the sublimation thesis, however, he does not deny the more direct outlet of love and sexual experience. If passion is a flame that burns within, spirituality is the flame of the world. It consumes materials as passion consumes people. The psychological and metaphysical trend of the poem, confused and incompletely articulated though it is, leans toward an interpretation of spiritual passion as a sublimation in which passion may switch from one object to another; it may start as erotic stimulation and end up as religion.
Or it may go in the other direction; it may seem to be religious fervor and end up being expressed as love for another person. Passion has many outlets and may shift from one stream to another in the process of flaming out. There is a good possibility that by the s Whitman had come to see his candid celebration of the body in direct language as a failure.
His attempt to construct the new American bible could thus represent an effort to give his radical poetry of the body a more conventional garb—the language of spirituality.