The Great Flesh Poem

by Elisa Van Arnam on · 2 comments

Art is when you hear a knock­ing from your soul — and you answer.” ~ Terri Guillemets

There is a famous quote from Walt Whitman’s Leave of Grass that says; “This is what you shall do…” he goes on to list all the lovely, Atti­cus Finch type things you could think of a human being doing; lov­ing the earth, giv­ing alms to the poor, devot­ing income and labor to oth­ers, hav­ing patience, going freely with “une­d­u­cated per­sons” with “the young” with “the moth­ers of fam­i­lies,” read­ing poetry, re-examining what you’ve been told, dis­miss­ing any­thing that “insults your own soul” and as a result of all this lus­cious liv­ing, he writes, “…your very flesh shall be a great poem.”

Since high school those mag­i­cal words have caressed my soul…“your very flesh shall be a great poem.” It’s deli­cious. It’s wild, it’s adven­tur­ous, it’s dan­ger­ous, it’s earnest, it’s magnificent!

And it makes per­fect sense to a 17 year-old rebel­lious teenager who knew noth­ing of respon­si­bil­i­ties, of taxes, of reces­sions, of heart­break or bro­ken dreams.

And yet…here I sit, as a 42 year-old wife and mother of two…and I can say with con­fi­dence and some­times sor­row, that I under­stand and have expe­ri­enced respon­si­bil­i­ties, taxes, reces­sions, heart­breaks and have had my fair share of bro­ken dreams… but if I am truly hon­est with myself…I know there is no other way to live, than to be the poem.

Oh…I said it.

Don’t get me wrong…I pay homage to my type A, picket fence rou­tines every­day. I love to have a clean house, I like get­ting up at a cer­tain time, doing each one of the chores on my to-do list in a cer­tain order and hav­ing things just so…I like to know what’s going to hap­pen next, I don’t like uncer­tainty or sur­prises… and this can work, as a life…if, like a jazz musi­cian, you can riff out­side the lines of the piece of music you cre­ate with your daily routine.

But if you get stuck inside that piece of music and never veer off the page, never take a pause where there’s sup­posed to be a note, or pay loud and hard where it says to be quiet, before you know it, YEARS will have gone by and you will have just main­tained. And then your flesh will just be…more fleshy.

I don’t think any of us signed up for ordi­nary. I think we get so dis­tracted by our mate­r­ial world that we for­get just how mag­i­cal we are and how we came here with a pur­pose. We don’t need to be artists or musi­cians, we don’t even have to be par­tic­u­larly skilled with words or glue guns or bricks or flower arrang­ing to live our lives as art. We just need to live our lives with a certain…abandon.

Yes…I said it.

Aban­don. We did it when we were kids. We played with aban­don, we sang with aban­don, we laughed till milk came out our noses! We put our whole hearts and souls into what­ever we were doing, fully focused, with pas­sion and energy and vision and light. And as kids, our very flesh WAS the poem.

So what’s stop­ping you now? Is it prac­ti­cal­ity? Ratio­nal­ity? Uncer­tainty? Fear?

I have never met some­one who set an out­ra­geous goal for them­selves, achieved it, and then said, “That was a mistake.”

In fact, it seems to me that the real art in life hap­pens out­side our com­fort zones.

It wasn’t until my dreams of domes­tic bliss were cracked and bro­ken by our econ­omy that I actu­ally knew this. It MADE me pull my head out of the sand and become extra­or­di­nary. Yes…it was beyond awful and painful while it was hap­pen­ing, but at the same time…

I hugged longer. I loved deeper. I was more grate­ful for lit­tle things; like hot run­ning water, food to pack lunches, gas in my car, a warm bed, a fire in our fire­place, a sweet smile, a good joke, the smell of rain and the words, “You are going to get through this.”

And it occurred to me, as I was sub­merged in this cri­sis, cling­ing to small grat­i­tudes, that those beau­ti­ful moments could become the build­ing blocks for the great poem of my life. I picked myself up, I got down to busi­ness. I started a com­pany. I drenched it in my soul. I live what I believe. Even when it’s hard. And this is my poem.

When it’s all said and done and your obit­u­ary is written…what will it say? Will it say that he or she punched the clock right on time, never missed an appoint­ment and got a per­fect score on the big test? Or will it say that you danced in the rain, loved BIG, went out of your way to help oth­ers, stood for some­thing, wouldn’t fall in line, made peo­ple laugh until milk came out their noses, and changed the world?

If you strive to make your “very flesh a great poem” what mag­nif­i­cence can you achieve?

by Elisa Van Arnam

Elisa Van Arnam is a wife, mother, writer and co-founder of SoulKu; an inspi­ra­tional con­cep­tual card com­pany ded­i­cated to help­ing peo­ple BE THE CHANGE. Elisa is also the co-author of One Namaste a Day, a SoulKu blog­ging adven­ture about see­ing the light in others.
Elisa Van Arnam
View all posts by Elisa Van Arnam

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