In Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself section (15) a lot of interesting things are happening. He list different people and describes an activity they are doing for two and a half pages of the text. As we talked about in class this list is not just something that was constructed randomly; there is a method to his madness. On page 13 is in full swing of the list and he describes a bride followed by an opium eater, prostitute, and the President. Earlier in the verse it goes deacon, spinning-girl, farmer, and lunatic in that order. What I think Whitman was trying to say was that every person is themselves and is part of the cosmos, using Marcuse’s term. At end of the poem Whitman really sums up what he was trying to say.
“The city sleeps and the country sleeps,
The living sleep for their time . . . . the dead sleep for their time,
The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife;
And these one and all tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them,
And such as it is to be of these more or less I am.” (Whitman 14)
I feel that Marcuse would generally agree with Whitman and the things he writes about. This statement is backed up by Marcuse’s quote on page 59, “With its code of forms and manners, with the style and vocabulary of its literature and philosophy, this past culture expressed the rhythm and content of a universe in which valleys and forests, villages and inns, nobles and villains, salons and courts were part of the experienced reality.” He goes on to talk about a pre-technological time that people that produced art had time to think. This quotes more than any I could find shows that Marcuse and Whitman are on the same page when it comes to this verse. Whitman’s last two lines say in non poetic terms, that everyone affects the universe and the universe affects you as a person. This means that every person whether it be the prostitute or the President is part of your world and all having meaning and a purpose. Marcuse believed that in the time where technology wasn’t as main stream the world was a better place. The thing is Walt Whitman lived in the time that Marcuse continuously talks about; a time where people appreciated nature and the power to think. Whitman not only lived in the time he had the presence of mind to realize it. He embraced the lack of business that Marcuse so proudly dislikes. Marcuse, I believe, would have been similar to Whitman if he lived in the same era. The thought of relaxing, thinking, and writing was what Marcuse preached in One-Dimensional Man.
Another way that Marcuse would admire Whitman is the way that Whitman doesn’t get absorbed in the media and mass production. Whitman doesn’t see people for consumers and producers like Marcuse is so afraid during his time. Marcuse talks about cosmos, as in all the universe as a whole. Whitman thinks the same thing at a different time. In his verse number 15 his last two lines are the most important when it comes to the message Whitman was trying to get onto the page. The universe is something that everyone has a role in producing. That’s what he meant in putting a long list together of people that exist in society. Marcuse also did not like the idea of nature being instrumentalities and this falls right into Walt Whitman’s lap. They both looked at nature as more than just a resource to produce something to be consumed just like the universe.
Overall, I feel that Walt Whitman and Marcuse are very similar in there thought process of the ideal world. The pre-technological era was the prime time to live for the both. Whitman actually lived during the time and Marcuse probably wished he did. The thought of the higher culture thinking and free from the economy is what Marcuse drives for. The two might not agree on every detail but I think the concept of the universe and cosmos is very similar. I don’t know exactly if I agree with the two of them. I’m still undecided because I feel the philosophy of all the people making an inward impression on me. The President, the farmer, the druggy, and the prostitute are all the same. The idea of this seems like a stretch to me. Maybe I am just not seeing the light but I am looking at it with an open mind. I hope to gain knowledge and come up with my own ideas just like Marcuse would say.