“we are so both and oneful
night cannot be so sky
sky cannot be so sunful
i am through you so I”
e.e. cummings (100 Selected Poems)
Some of e.e. cummings fans regard this untitled poem as his finest work. However, with nearly 3,000 poems published, it might be a fool’s errand to judge.
However, what may not be debatable is that in his final stanza he playfully illuminates perhaps the quintessential truth about the human experience. Humans are social animals and need each other to survive (if not thrive) physically, mentally and spiritually.
Excrpt: Biodesign Ou For A Walk, chap.20, “Sasha.”
“He went on to say, “Living is quite an intimate process. We are all breathing the same air and interact socially, which involves a great gift. We have the potential to appreciate or improve the value of each other.”
This process may be as simple as a smile, pat on the back, a hug, or as profound as sharing wedding vows or comforting a friend following the death of a loved one. Modifying Howard Gardner’s, Multiple Intelligences, these were the pathways we used to enhance self-discovery, connectiveness, validation and appreciation.
- Linguistic/body-language communication skills
- Logic/mathematical/scientific skills
- Visual/perception/artistic expression
- Self-awareness through body movement
- Socio-psychological awareness
- Nature/transcending experiences
All of these can be summed up in the simple Zen koan:
“No two people have ever met and departed unchanged.”
Every person we have ever met left an imprint on us that contributed (small or large) to the person who we are becoming. Because the Biodesign Class was an advanced biology class, all eight pathways were applied from a biological perspective. Although all pathways are essential, Nature-study (the wilderness ethic) became the primary focus with the other pathways contributing as a supportive network. The literary works of Muir, Emerson, Darwin, Thoreau, Eiseley, Agassiz, Dillard etal served as our guides. It was almost automatic that students climbing to the top of Half Dome or hiking to the bottom of Grand Canyon went through transcending experiences.
The stunning photo of a rock climber striking a pose on a Grand Canyon pinnacle can be a good example. It would be impossible for this 81-year-old (grandfather of nine) to attempt to ascend the rock column. However, that fact does not preclude me from enriching my soul by vicariously celebrating the success of the climber. His image conjures up rich symbolism and a plethora of soulful emotions and aspirations. It is quite common for hikers reaching a mountain peak to raise their arms in a skyward exultation. Whether the raised arms symbolize opening their hearts to heaven or welcoming heaven into their hearts, the experiences are often life changing.
I’ve dangled my feet 4800’ above Yosemite Valley on the edge of Half Dome for nearly 30 times. Each time was unique, thrilling—transformative.
It is little wonder that Walt Whitman wrote:
“To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.”
e.e. cummings would wholeheartedly agree and so do I.