What Is the Grass

Walt Whitman in My Life

by Mark Doty



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Also on this website:


Toby Johnson's books:

Toby's books are available as ebooks from smashwords.com, the Apple iBookstore, etc.


Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III


Gay Spirituality

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness


Gay Perspective


GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe


Secret Matter


SECRET MATTER, a sci-fi novel with wonderful "aliens" with an Afterword by Mark Jordan


Getting Life

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE:  A Fantastical Gay Romance set in two different time periods


The Fourth Quill

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil




Two Spirits
TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams



charmed lives
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: GaySpirit in Storytelling, a collaboration with Steve Berman and some 30 other writers


Myth of the Great Secret


THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell



In Search of God


IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD: A Mystical Journey



Unpublished manuscripts


About ordering


Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series


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  Articles and Excerpts:

Review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness


Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"


About Liberty Books, the Lesbian/Gay Bookstore for Austin, 1986-1996


The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate


A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality


Why gay people should NOT Marry


The Scriptural Basis for Same Sex Marriage


Toby and Kip Get Married


Wedding Cake Liberation


Gay Marriage in Texas


What's ironic



Shame on the American People


The "highest form of love"


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Gay Consciousness


Why homosexuality is a sin


The cause of homosexuality


The origins of homophobia


Advice to Future Gay Historians


Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness


What is homosexuality?


What is Gay Spirituality?


My three messages


What Jesus said about Gay Rights


Queering religion


Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men


Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?


The purpose of homosexuality


Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality


What the Bible Says about Homosexuality


Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men



Varieties of Gay Spirituality


Waves of Gay Liberation Activity


The Gay Succession


Wouldn’t You Like to Be Uranian?


The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter


Queer men, myths and Reincarnation


Was I (or you) at Stonewall?


Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium


Easton Mountain Retreat Center


Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism


The Mysticism of Andrew Harvey


The upsidedown book on MSNBC


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Enlightenment


"It's Always About You"



The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara


Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara


You're Not A Wave



Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging



Toby's Experience of Zen



What is Enlightenment?



What is reincarnation?


What happens at Death?


How many lifetimes in an ego?



Emptiness & Religious Ideas



Experiencing experiencing experiencing



Going into the Light



Meditations for a Funeral



Meditation Practice



The way to get to heaven



Buddha's father was right



What Anatman means



Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal



The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika



A Funny Story: The Rug Salesmen of Istanbul



Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva



John Boswell was Immanuel Kant



Cutting edge realization



The Myth of the Wanderer



Change: Source of Suffering & of Bliss



World Navel



What the Vows Really Mean



Manifesting from the Subtle Realms



The Three-layer Cake & the Multiverse


The est Training and Personal Intention



Effective Dreaming in Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven



Drawing a Long Straw: Ketamine at the Mann Ranch


Alan Watts & Multiple Solipsism



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Gay Spirituality


Curious Bodies


What Toby Johnson Believes


The Joseph Campbell Connection


The Mann Ranch (& Rich Gabrielson)


Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy


The Two Loves


The Nature of Religion


What's true about Religion


Being Gay is a Blessing


Drawing Long Straws


Freedom of Religion


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The Gay Agenda


Gay Saintliness


Gay Spiritual Functions



The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.


The Sinfulness of Homosexuality


Proposal for a study of gay nondualism


Priestly Sexuality


Having a Church to Leave


Harold Cole on Beauty


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Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption


Not lashed to the prayer-post


Monastic or Chaste Homosexuality


The Monastic Schedule: a whimsy


Is It Time to Grow Up? Confronting the Aging Process


Notes on Licking  (July, 1984)


Redeem Orlando


Gay Consciousness changing the world by Shokti LoveStar


Alexander Renault interviews Toby Johnson



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Mystical Vision


"The Evolution of Gay Identity"


"St. John of the Cross & the Dark Night of the Soul."


Avalokiteshvara at the Baths


 Eckhart's Eye


Let Me Tell You a Secret


Religious Articulations of the Secret


The Collective Unconscious


Driving as Spiritual Practice


Meditation


Historicity as Myth


Pilgrimage


No Stealing


Next Step in Evolution


The New Myth


The Moulting of the Holy Ghost


Gaia is a Bodhisattva


Sex with God


Merging Religion and Sex


Revolution Through Consciousness Change: GSV 2019


God as Metaphor


More Metaphors for God


A non-personal metaphor God


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The Hero's Journey


The Hero's Journey as archetype -- GSV 2016


The  Gay Hero Journey (shortened)


You're On Your Own


Superheroes


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Seeing Differently


Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil


Allah Hu: "God is present here"


 
Adam and Steve


The Life is in the Blood



Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"


Seeing with Different Eyes


Facing the Edge: AIDS as an occasion for spiritual wisdom


What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?


A Different Take on Leathersex


Seeing Pornography Differently


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The Vision


The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside


A  Most Remarkable Synchronicity in Riverside


The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis


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The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby


Part 2: The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara


Part 3: Jesus and the Resurrection


Part 4: A Course in Miracles


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The Secret of the Clear Light


Understanding the Clear Light


Mobius Strip


Finding Your Tiger Face


How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated


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Joseph Campbell, the Hero's Journey, and the modern Gay Hero-- a five part presentation on YouTube


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About Alien Abduction


In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke


Karellen was a homosexual


The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance


Intersections with the movie When We Rise


More about Gay Mental Health


Psych Tech Training


Toby at the California Institute


The Rainbow Flag


Ideas for gay mythic stories


My first Peace March


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People


Kip and Toby, Activists


Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.


Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement


About Hay and The New Myth


About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"


About Michael Talbot, gay mystic


About Fr. Bernard Lynch


About Richard Baltzell


About Guy Mannheimer


About David Weyrauch


About Dennis Paddie


About Ask the Fire


About Arthur Evans


About Christopher Larkin


About Mark Thompson


About Sterling Houston


About Michael Stevens


The Alamo Business Council


Our friend Tom Nash


Second March on Washington


The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"


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Book Reviews



Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook


Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer


The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter


The Gay Disciple by John Henson


Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry


Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr


Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois


Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson


Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low


Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman


The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman


Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor


Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine


The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada


The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook


The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther


The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel


Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak


Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez


Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr


Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman


Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano


The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo


The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar


Occam’s Razor by David Duncan


Grace and Demion by Mel White


Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso


The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery


The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass


Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen


War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar


The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal


Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal


The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre


Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak


A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey


Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes


The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes


Keys to Spiritual Being: Energy Meditation and Synchronization Exercises by Adrian Ravarour


In Walt We Trust by John Marsh


Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary


A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary


Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott


Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou


Internal Landscapes by John Ollom


Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks


Yes by Brad Boney


Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler


Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal


Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson


Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette


The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson


The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire


"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught


Out & About with Brewer & Berg
Episode One: Searching for a New Mythology


The Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons


Out on Holy Ground by Donald Boisvert


The Revotutionary Psychology of Gay-Centeredness by Mitch Walker


Out There by Perry Brass


The Crucifixion of Hyacinth by Geoff Puterbaugh


The Silence of Sodom by Mark D Jordan


It's Never About What It's About by Krandall Kraus and Paul Borja


ReCreations, edited by Catherine Lake


Gospel: A Novel by WIlton Barnhard


Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey by Fenton Johnson


Dating the Greek Gods by Brad Gooch


Telling Truths in Church by Mark D. Jordan


The Substance of God by Perry Brass


The Tomcat Chronicles by Jack Nichols


10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives by Joe Kort


Jesus and the Shamanic Tradition of Same Sex Love by Will Roscoe


The Third Appearance by Walter Starcke


The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann


Surviving and Thriving After a Life-Threatening Diagnosis by Bev Hall


Men, Homosexuality, and the Gods by Ronald Long

An Interview with Ron Long


Queering Creole Spiritual Traditons by Randy Conner & David Sparks

An Interview with Randy Conner


Pain, Sex and Time by Gerald Heard


Sex and the Sacred by Daniel Helminiak


Blessing Same-Sex Unions by Mark Jordan


Rising Up by Joe Perez


Soulfully Gay by Joe Perez


That Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco


Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman


Wisdom for the Soul by Larry Chang


MM4M a DVD by Bruce Grether


Double Cross by David Ranan


The Transcended Christian by Daniel Helminiak


Jesus in Love by Kittredge Cherry


In the Eye of the Storm by Gene Robinson


The Starry Dynamo by Sven Davisson


Life in Paradox by Fr Paul Murray


Spirituality for Our Global Community by Daniel Helminiak


Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society by Robert A. Minor


Coming Out: Irish Gay Experiences by Glen O'Brien


Queering Christ by Robert Goss


Skipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage


The Flesh of the Word by Richard A Rosato


Catland by David Garrett Izzo


Tantra for Gay Men by Bruce Anderson


Yoga & the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main


Simple Grace by Malcolm Boyd


Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza


What Does "Queer" Mean Anyway? by Chris Bartlett


Critique of Patriarchal Reasoning by Arthur Evans


Gift of the Soul by Dale Colclasure & David Jensen


Legend of the Raibow Warriors by Steven McFadden


The Liar's Prayer by Gregory Flood


Lovely are the Messengers by Daniel Plasman


The Human Core of Spirituality by Daniel Helminiak


3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke


Religion and the Human Sciences by Daniel Helminiak


Only the Good Parts by Daniel Curzon


Four Short Reviews of Books with a Message


Life Interrupted by Michael Parise


Confessions of a Murdered Pope by Lucien Gregoire


The Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman


Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny


Footprints Through the Desert by Joshua Kauffman


True Religion by J.L. Weinberg


The Mediterranean Universe by John Newmeyer


Everything is God by Jay Michaelson


Reflection by Dennis Merritt


Everywhere Home by Fenton Johnson


Hard Lesson by James Gaston


God vs Gay? by Jay Michaelson


The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path by Jay Michaelson


Roxie & Fred by Richard Alther


Not the Son He Expected by Tim Clausen


The 9 Realities of Stardust by Bruce P. Grether


The Afterlife Revolution by Anne & Whitley Strieber


AIDS Shaman: Queer Spirit Awakening by Shokti Lovestar


Facing the Truth of Your Life by Merle Yost


The Super Natural by Whitley Strieber & Jeffrey J Kripal


Secret Body by Jeffrey J Kripal


In Hitler's House by Jonathan Lane


Walking on Glory by Edward Swift


The Paradox of Porn by Don Shewey


Is Heaven for Real? by Lucien Gregoire


In Search of Lost Lives by Michael Goddart


Queer Magic by Tomas Prower


God in Your Body by Jay Michaelson


Science Whispering Spirit by Gary Preuss


Friends of Dorothy by Dee Michel


New by Whitley Strieber


Developing Supersensible Perception by Shelli Renee Joye

Sage Sapien by Johnson Chong


Tarot of the Future by Arthur Rosengarten


Brothers Across Time by Brad Boney


Impresario of Castro Street by Marc Huestis


Deathless by Andrew Ramer


The Pagan Heart of the West, Vol 1 by Randy P. Conner


Practical Tantra by William Schindler


The Flip by Jeffrey J. Kripal


A New World by Whitley Strieber


Bernhard & LightWing by Damien Rowse


The Mountains of Paris by David Oates


Trust Truth by Trudie Barreras


How to be an Excellent Human Being by Bill Meacham


The Deviant's War by Eric Cervini


What Is the Grass by Mark Doty


Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson




Toby Johnson's Books on Gay Men's Spiritualities:




Gay
Perspective cover
Gay Perspective

Things Our [Homo]sexuality
Tells Us about the
Nature of God and
the Universe


Gay Perspective audiobook
Gay Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Matthew Whitfield. Click here







Gay
Spirituality cover
Gay Spirituality

Gay Identity and 
the Transformation of
Human Consciousness



gay-spirituality-audiobook
Gay Spirituality   is now available as an audiobook, beautifully narrated by John Sipple. Click here








charmed lives
Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling

edited by
Toby Johnson
& Steve Berman







secret matter
Secret Matter

Lammy Award Winner for Gay Science Fiction

updated







Getting Life
Getting Life in Perspective

A Fantastical Romance





Getting
Life in Perspective audiobook
Getting Life in Perspective is available as an audiobook narrated by Alex Beckham. Click here 






The Fourth Quill

The Fourth Quill

originally published as PLAGUE




johnson-the-fourth-quill-audiobook
The Fourth Quill is available as an audiobook, narrated by Jimmie Moreland. Click here






Two
Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo

with Walter L. Williams




Two Spirits
audiobookTwo Spirits  is available as an audiobook  narrated by Arthur Raymond. Click here






Finding Your Own True Myth - The Myth of the Great Secret III
Finding Your Own True Myth: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell

The Myth of the Great Secret III








In
Search of God in the Sexual Underworld
In Search of God  in the Sexual Underworld










The Myth of the Great Secret II

The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell.

This was the second edition of this book.




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Toby Johnson's titles are available in other ebook formats from Smashwords.


Who is I? and Who is You?


What is the Grass cover

What Is the Grass

Walt Whitman in My Life

by Mark Doty

W. W. Norton & Company (April 6, 2021)

288 pages, paperback, $15.95

ISBN: 978-0393541410


Available from Amazon in other formats

What Is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life


5 stars

Description:

Effortlessly blending biography, criticism, and memoir, National Book Award–winning poet and best-selling memoirist Mark Doty explores his personal quest for Walt Whitman.

Mark Doty has always felt haunted by Walt Whitman’s perennially new American voice, and by his equally radical claims about body and soul. In What Is the Grass, Doty effortlessly blends biography, criticism, and memoir to keep company with Whitman and his Leaves of Grass, tracing the resonances between his own experience and the legendary poet’s life and work. 3 illustrations

Review:

What is the Grass by poet, art and literary commentator, college professor, and surprisingly self-disclosing memoirist, Mark Doty, is a literary analysis of Walt Whitman's poetry, into which is beautifully blended a series of meditations and musings on the nature of language, sex, love, and especially the Self, with a capital S.

Whitman's Leaves of Grass was a transformation of poetic form. Never before had a poet taken such liberties with the traditional rules of rhyme and meter.  The 19th century poet (May 31, 1819 – March 26, 1892) effectively created what we know today as "free verse." An important aspect of Whitman's poetical identity was that he had been assistant to a printer and so was able to use the presses to "self-publish" his book(s) —mostly, all the same book revised, expanded and published over and over again. Doty discusses how the typesetting was used to create spaces between stanzas and to break up lines of thought, and sometimes were used to mask or obfuscate homoerotic references: if the lines about men's bodies were broken by a double space, the next lines could be taken for new meanings, perhaps women's bodies. Thus the typesetting itself was part of Walt's meanings.

Mark DotyThroughout the book Doty —and I, as reader and as reader of Whitman— expresses amazement that the poet could get away with so much homosexuality. Doty suggests that homosexuality, though known about, of course, seemed simply so beyond the pale and so foreign and unspeakable in the 1800s that readers just read right through it without realizing what was being said.

As Doty's title suggests, one of the themes of his book is what "grass" means. And the meanings are multiple. I was surprised and pleased to learn that among printers at the time, scratch/ dummy copies run through the press to test spacing, registration, and print quality were referred to as "grass." And, of course, the pages of a book are called "leaves," so leaves of grass would have been pages of experimental tests in typesetting—a whole new meaning for Whitman's title.

Mark Doty's literary discussions are interwoven with bits of autobiography and personal experience —some of these areWalt Whitman spiritual, almost mystical, some sexual, some romantic, some nostalgic: a scene in a men's changing room at the beach, a few hours at a gay bathhouse, a tryst with a longtime fuck buddy turned romantic then magical when the Beloved's face transforms into that of Walt Whitman (specifically, the face in the photo to the right), a struggle with sex addiction, accounts of boyfriends and husbands, of AIDS and grief, and, importantly, the recognition of the Buddhist character Avalokitesvara hiding just behind Whitman's words.

(Permit me a moment to interweave a bit of my own bio in this review to mention that I first studied Whitman —for his mystical/archetypal meanings— in a class on Jungian interpretation of literature at Saint Louis University in 1966. That was just at the time poster art was becoming a craze among the Youth Generation. The fad at S.L.U. was poster-size scratch paper from a nearby map-printing company that had been run through the presses multiple times to clean the ink off the rollers, so they were all one-of-a-kind fantastic blurs of color and shape. I had one of these on my dormroom wall that year. I now discover from Mark Doty that that poster was a "leaf of grass," wasn't it? And just to share a curiously ribald association, let me add that the dormitory was named after a great benefactor from the brewing industry of St. Louis. So the men's dorm at that Jesuit college was named Griesedieck Hall.)

But grass is also the stuff of life, the ever-present fecundity of planet Earth that sprouts life abundantly everywhere. Grass is also the stuff we cut down and throw away. Grass is a symbol for human mortality and the evanescence of ego and personal selfhood.

Doty focuses on two important poems: "Song of Myself" and "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," effectively the first and last extended poems of Leaves of Grass.

"Song of Myself" begins:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" ends:
We use you, and do not cast you aside —we plant you
        permanently within us,
     We fathom you not —we love you— there is perfection in
        you also,
     You furnish your parts toward eternity,
     Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.

Who is the I who celebrates self? And who the you that furnishes parts for the soul?

The nature of self —and maybe Self to use the Jungian, new-age convention of the capital-S for distinguishing between personal ego and cosmic consciousness— is an ongoing theme in Doty's book. It begins with Walt loafing at his ease, inviting his soul into consciousness,
observing a spear of grass. Throughout Whitman's extended meditation on human life, Doty observes, the antecedents of personal pronouns shift around. Sometimes the you is the reader, sometimes the generic human being, sometimes the speaker referencing himself as part of humanity, sometimes the greater consciousness that creates all things and that the poet "celebrates."

Doty makes an interesting point that in Whitman's day, "celebrate" would have meant less holding a party and more officiating at a sacrament: the priest celebrates the Mass. Celebrate is an act of creating.

Doty elucidates at great length the meanings in:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
Science with its atomic theory tells us that every atom of every one of us was born in a stellar collapse and supernova; that every atom is shared among all people; we breathe in and excrete out a myriad of atoms. Every atom in me has been in some other being, a you. So every atom of mine also has been or will be an atom of you —and if not you (specifically), then some other you (generically) who is you to both of us.

Another sense is that the atoms I think of as mine belong as good to you because you are me. "I" am both the subject and the object. The "you" I speak to is the "me" that is being spoken to. To celebrate Self is to become one with all. And all of us are like leaves of grass.

In discussing Whitman's use of literary language, Doty cites the King James Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6:
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
To go on one more verse:
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
There's the grass, isn't it? We are all One. Individual blades of us are mowed down and cast into the oven of time, and yet the field—and the fecundity of the earth—lives on and flourishes.

Avalokitesvara I loved that Mark Doty introduced the myth of Avalokiteshvara —it is a
story dear to me, a story by which I explain my life to myself. The myth (which is discussed elsewhere on my website at great length) tells that this young monk renounced his own nirvana to remain in the round of rebirth to save others. In the version I learned from Joseph Campbell, the way Avalokiteshvara "saved" all other sentient beings is by becoming them, by assuming all their future incarnations. He is the one soul reincarnating in everyone. As Whitman says:
And what I assume you shall assume
Campbell called this spirituality: The Way of Joyful Participation in the Sorrows of the World. What the I assumed —meaning to believe in, but also to be incarnated in— you are also assuming. We are all participating.

Doty writes:
Imagine a Buddha who turns to us and says, Shoulder your duds! Walt Whitman in "Song of Myself" is a homespun American Avalokitesvara; he finds with immeasurable joy his own realization of unity, and that vision leads to a tenderness toward all things: And I know that the hand of God is the elderhand of my own… And that a kelson of the creation is love. Surely Avalokitesvara is the “elderhand” of Walt Whitman; this passage overflows with a universal, swelling tenderness. [A kelson is a beam running the length of a ship connecting the floor to the keel, the "backbone" of the ship.]


I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars…
Doty, Mark. What Is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life (p. 50-51). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Doty concludes: "Radiant and endless: I am all and all never ceases…"

There is a lovely, sexually-charged story in the book that I referenced briefly above in which Mark tells how he has spent a wonderful time of lovemaking with an old boyfriend, now older and grayhaired. And as they are loafing afterwards, he looks at his friend and unexpectedly, inexplicably he sees the face of Whitman.

It's like the One Being — Avalokiteshvara, the Lord Who Looks Down on the World and Hears the Cries of All Beings and whose name also means The Lord Who is Seen Within, and also Walt Whitman, the homespun American poet who celebrates himself as the I and the you — cannot help but reveal Itself throughout creation. For it is the "You [that] furnish your parts toward eternity, Great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul."

In a way very much like Doty and his grayheaded friend, I once, in a sexually-charged moment in a gay bathhouse, saw the face of Avalokiteshvara. In the darkness of the orgy room, he held me tight and we connected chakra to chakra. His parting words to me: Have faith.

We are all sharing our parts in creation of the soul.

Walt Whitman, the poet of proud and mystical homosexual vision, gave birth not just to new poetic forms and rhythms, but to a new religion of cosmic consciousness and Nature divine — one that is still being born. And Mark Doty is surely one of its prophets.

What Is the Grass is a lovely book, so full of interesting points and observations about mystical reality as well as about what it means to be a gay man today. I recommend the book for the inspiration it will afford.

Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of Finding Your Own True Myth: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell, Gay Spirituality, and other books and novels.





About Walt Whitman

from goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1438.Walt_Whitman

Walter Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist. He was a part of the transition between Transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse.

Born on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War in addition to publishing his poetry. Early in his career, he also produced a temperance novel, Franklin Evans (1842).

After working as clerk, teacher, journalist and laborer, Whitman wrote his masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, pioneering free verse poetry in a humanistic celebration of humanity, in 1855. Emerson, whom Whitman revered, said of Leaves of Grass that it held "incoWalt Whitman oldmparable things incomparably said." During the Civil War, Whitman worked as an army nurse, later writing Drum Taps (1865) and Memoranda During the War (1867). His health compromised by the experience, he was given work at the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. After a stroke in 1873, which left him partially paralyzed, Whitman lived his next 20 years with his brother, writing mainly prose, such as Democratic Vistas (1870). Leaves of Grass was published in nine editions, with Whitman elaborating on it in each successive edition. In 1881, the book had the compliment of being banned by the commonwealth of Massachusetts on charges of immorality. A good friend of Robert Ingersoll, Whitman was at most a Deist who scorned religion. D. 1892.

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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of nine books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, four gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality and editor of a collection of "myths" of gay men's consciousness. 

Johnson's book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness won a Lambda Literary Award in 2000.

His  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our [Homo]sexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was nominated for a Lammy in 2003. They remain in print.

FINDING YOUR OWN TRUE MYTH: What I Learned from Joseph Campbell: The Myth of the Great Secret III tells the story of Johnson's learning the real nature of religion and myth and discovering the spiritual qualities of gay male consciousness.

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