This post isn't really going to be about Walt Whitman, at all. But I really want to get this idea off my chest, and it's 3:30am and I can't sleep and this has honestly been bugging me since I was seventeen. There are loads of role models out there, who seem sort of very different or very the same depending on how you look at them. It's a particular category of same-ness, that I'm going to try to put my finger on, but for a ballpark, here's a list:
- John & Hank Green
- Alan Moore
- Neil Gaiman
- Percy Bysshe Shelley
- Lord Byron
- Terry Pratchett
- Greta Christina
- PZ Myers
These aren't similar people. These are people with huge differences, and in some cases these are people with fundamentally non-overlapping fandoms. Like, I'm not at all a fan of Plato or Whitman. I don't agree with everything Buddha or Gandhi said.
But they've all got this one big thing, in the middle, where they're all basically pushing the same agenda. Nietzsche would call it life-affirming. They've all got this thing, where they basically just don't believe it's worth wasting any of the time you get, being alive.
And that makes it really hard to explain why I don't like all of them, why I don't agree with some of them, why I have a bit of contempt for a few of them.
But the thing is, that big thing in the middle isn't the only thing any of them ever talk about. Nietzsche is annoyingly into music and dance. Emerson is, to my taste, way too in love with nature. I could see myself getting behind Alan Moore, but there's a certain degree to which I don't want to go that far down the road of a lifestyle of eccentricity. (And I don't very much like my home town.)
Your role models and philosophical heroes sort of have to tell you that it's worth living. That's not what makes them special. I mean, it's what makes them special as human beings, but it's not what makes them special among notable people.
We can't all affirm life in the same way. Walks in the woods make some people feel deeply connected with humanity. For me, the thing most intimate and uplifting about a long walk in the woods is seeing the glow of city lights in the distance, knowing there's a place close enough to see its aura where people have come together to live and cooperate.
And, frankly, arguments about whose happiness is better are a pain in the ass.