Song of Myself (and some cake!)

Last weekend I baked a cake for myself–just because I’m awesome. I announced it to the ends of the earth–OK, mainly just to the boyfriend–and it had never felt truer. I work from home, transcribing the words to video and audio files. Saturday I completed several files, which should have taken me 12 hours, but took me about 6 or 7 instead. Clearly, CLEARLY, I am awesome.

I spread the last layer of frosting on this cake and thought of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” I remember in high school how I took Whitman’s self-praising poem only at an arm’s length. I let myself like only parts of the poem, bits that didn’t seem quite so egocentric. And then in college lit at a Christian university–do I remember a discussion around the dangers of loving oneself that much? (I’m sure this was only in my head.)

But today, today I am singing with Walt, because I am awesome. I’ve done well. I did what I thought would be impossible or just plain exhausting. I earned enough money in one day that I hope to earn in a week. I am really, truly good at what I do–huzzah!

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content (XX)

I’ve been spending time with the heretics the past few days, reading about them and reflecting. I’m convinced that some heresies need a second look. Dear Pelagius, mainly, and his disbelief in original sin. You are good! You are good! The divine is in all. The spirit of God is everywhere. This doesn’t mean you don’t need the grace of God; it just means that your primary disposition is toward goodness and not evil.

Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from;
The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer,
The head is more than churches or bibles or creeds (XXIV)

I wonder if it would do us Christians a bit of good to look with joy at Whitman’s poem instead of fear. (Maybe some already do this well.) I, for one, have always felt a need to qualify. I celebrate myself–but not the bad parts!

I celebrate myself,
and what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you (I)

I’ve been pounding into my brain for so long that I am bad, that I am a sinner, weak, worthless, and empty. Have I forgotten that God called both man and woman “very good!” in the garden? Despite one’s belief on original sin (I’m on Team Pelagius, but let’s not forget all the good Augustine’s done!), I’m convinced we could all use time to relax a bit and consider our own goodness. Because–I am awesome! And so are you!

Christians are the vessels of God. We carry God in us. As Annie Dillard aptly wrote, “Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke?” And we spend all this time putting ourselves and other down? Ridiculous.

I too am not a bit tamed . . . . I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world (LII)

Today I’m going to celebrate myself. Will you join me by celebrating yourself?

About Lauren Sawyer

I am a Ph.D. student studying social ethics in New Jersey. I love coffee, rainy days, and John Updike. Learn more about me at laurendeidra.com.

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