Brand building through storytelling

God the poet

Once upon a time, in the grip of a fever, I dreamed God spoke to me. Man, what a way with words! Imagine Shakespeare, Donne and all the other great poets from a bygone age, piped through an organ the size of Mount Everest. I awoke in a rapture, groping for a pen. But all I could remember was this: whatever God had said, he said it in iambic pentameter. Yes, much as I hate to admit it, the God of my dream was male—a mighty patriarch with a flowing white beard and the poetic chops to get the heavens, the earth and the oceans doing the boogaloo.

If there exists such a being as God, I have no doubt that said being is the ultimate poet. While I’ve never found a reason to believe in God, I’ve seen time and again that poetry connects me to a life force that’s  both part of me and greater than myself. A memorable poem lifts me from the hurly burly to a whole other plane in which I honour and celebrate the best this battered world has to offer while communing with all the other readers, from the dead to the not-yet-born, who have reflected on the same lines. Unlike the slogans on mass-produced posters, poems don’t tell me what to do. Instead they attune my mind to the power of the possible, for good or ill. How I employ that perception is entirely up to me.

There’s a story I like about Walt Whitman, who spent the Civil War caring for wounded soldiers of both sides—a volunteer determined to comfort the forgotten, the frightened and the lonely. He wrote condolence notes to the mothers and wives of the newly dead. He brought the living candy, jellies, fruit and stamped envelopes. If they couldn’t write home by themselves, he took dictation. With his full beard and penetrating eyes, Whitman cut an imposing figure. One young man, dying in agony, looked up at the poet and asked, “Are you God?” Whitman said he was. Minutes later, the soldier died peacefully.

I wish I could remember where I read about Whitman’s words of comfort, a good 10 years ago. I’ve been looking for that book ever since. I want proof that the story really happened, that I didn’t conjure it with my need to believe in such things. I’ve found plenty of stories about Whitman’s war work, just not the one that haunts and inspires me. So I guess I’ll just take it on faith that a great-hearted poet, in a time of carnage and affliction, spoke for whatever gods there be.

Click here to read one of my favourite posts, “The poetry of random facts about ourselves.” 

Posted by Rona

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