Leaves On Grass

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Of course, I am spoofing Walt Whitman, whose Leaves of Grass may be considered his version of MyAmpleLife (like Montaigne’s Essays are, in his own words, I am myself the subject of my book, that I have imitated, as I wrote in A Garden of One’s Own), especially Song of Myself:

I celebrate myself,

I lean and loafe at my ease,

Loafe with me on the grass.

As Harold Bloom noted:

His credentials are a Lucretian-Epicurean universality, and his insouciance: a loafer, a leaner, at ease, at leisure. A ‘loafer” was even more a term of reproach in 1855 than it is today.

Like Omar Khayyam too, perhaps, that I have discussed in In Praise of Poetry..and James Bond.

Emerson jokingly called Walt’s descriptive lists “inventories” – which is why I use it now in the (recently updated) MyAmpleLife website to catalog certain frequent themes that I revisit in my posts: Cornell, IIT-Madras, Machine Learning, Movies, OrganJet, Quantum Computing, SmartOps and, of course, Sridhara Brahmana, to jovially (and perhaps irreverently) delight in Physics, Genomics and Computing using everyday vernacular.

Indeed, Whitman’s inspiration was Emerson. I told my colleague Dennis over lunch at Mad Mex, earlier in the summer, celebrating my 30 years of magical realism at CMU, I did not realize how inherently American I was – Emerson’s Romantic version of an American, that is, Transcendental, Self-Sufficient and, above all, a believer that “The Only Sin is Limitation” when it comes to pursuing intellectual newness – until I realized that I had it backwards!

It is maximally inverse in that it is Emerson who was inherently (Vedantic) Indian! Inspired by Vishnu Purana, whose verse he had noted down in his notebook, here is his Hamatreya:

Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys

Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs;

Who steer the plough, but cannot steer the feet

Clear of the grave.

Well, I am not quite Emerson, though, I must admit, as there is an important difference between us (beyond the fact that he was not a man of STEM😊). After much oscillation between Fate and Freedom, Emerson, whose notion of Fate is Indian enough (versus Greek), resigns to the “abysmal Force, un-tameable and immense” in his later years, not completely understanding that taming that immense, abysmal force is what this life is for!

Of course, Emerson is also alluding to the conclusion of Ode, by Wordsworth (one of my favorites as I mentioned in Portrait of an Academic Capitalist as a Young Man), the courage being Stoic comfort:

When I heard the Earth-song

I was no longer brave;

My avarice cooled

Like lust in the chill of the grave.

I prefer instead the beginning of Ode (that I believe is also similar to the opening lyrics of The Logical Song 😏, that I mentioned in When I was Young) that I have modified to enjoy the autumn colors, the fallen leaves on grass,  and the welcome Indian summer this week, before the chill of winter snow (40% chance tomorrow in Sewickley!) that is inevitably approaching:

There was Once more! ‘Tis a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight,

To me did  does seem

Apparelled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.






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