Undoubtedly, you have pondered that age-old philosophical question, “if you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” For me, the answer is easy. It would be Walt Whitman, which incidentally explains the name of this blog! I know, I know, you were hoping to read of an actual dinner and conversation with Walt, but sadly no, I have not had dinner with him. But I would most certainly enjoy it!
I have no idea what I would say to him if I were able to meet him. Likely, I’d be scratching my head in wonder and disbelief “how am I meeting a person who’s been dead for 120 years!?!” Also I can’t help but question, would I meet him 120 years ago in the 19th Century? Or would I meet him today, in the present. How would each of us react to the changes in society that 120 years make? History enables us to have some familiarity with how people in the 19th Century lived, but can you imagine what life will be like, say, 120+ years from now? It would be like science fiction to speculate what the future of human existence holds 120+ years from now. Imagine if Walt were here today, I’m quite sure he would be amazed to see planes in the sky, computers that process and perform every function imaginable in our daily lives, portable cellular phones and so many other technological, medical and social advancements over the past 120 years. What would he think of these changes? What would he write today? Perhaps that IS the question I’ll ask him at dinner.
There are many Whitman blogs available, he is indeed still loved. My intention is not to focus directly on Leaves of Grass, but rather I will share what I have learned about Walt’s personal life; the people he knew and influenced, how he responded to people who admired him and how life in the 19th Century compares to life now in the 21st Century. Nearly 120 years have passed since his death, but Walt, the “Good Gray Poet,” is still relevant, still ‘alive’ and still loved.