“I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable. I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” – Walt Whitman


“I anoint myself this very hour to be loosed from all boundaries and imaginary lines.” –Walt Whitman


Walt Whitman and I have always had a confusing relationship. Well, I guess it’s not even a relationship because that would imply that each has at least a knowledge of the other. Let’s say that I’ve not always known what to do with Walt’s wisdom. In his enduring poem Song of Myself, he tells of a hawk who “swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.” This is when the author fills his lungs and yells “over the roots of the world.”

“Yawp.” The bellowing of this word tells the world “I am here.” It is probably fair to assume (without taking the time to research it) that Dr. Seuss was no stranger to Whitman’s poem—it was a little “Who” in Whoville whose “Yopp!” broke through and allowed Horton’s friends to hear the words, “We are here, we are here!”

The second quote listed above was new to me. I was waiting for a prescription this morning and chose to glance at a few greeting cards instead of the foot ointments and discounted DVDs. One simple but elegant cover persuaded me to open the card and read, “I anoint myself this very hour to be loosed from all boundaries and imaginary lines.” 

“Wow,” I thought. “What an empowering statement. What if we could all do just that—decide that the expectations of ourselves and the world around us were too limiting. What if….”

And here I was again in Whitman World, the confusing landscape in whose foothills one wonders, “is it possible to be awesome and humble at the same time?” We know and sometimes believe that as children of God we’re special, loved and even heard by the Creator of the Universe. We have moments when we realize that it’s a slap in the face to the doll-maker when the doll looks at him and remarks, “I’m ugly,” or “I’m nothing,” or “You made a mistake.” But we also know that we’re not really better than anyone else and that sometimes we should keep our “yawps” to ourselves.

As I picked up my medicine and left the pharmacy, I thought about what it could mean to ignore the imaginary lines and boundaries that so effectively contain us. We cross latitude and longitude lines all the time without stopping to say, “Whoa—I can’t get across that.” One of our youths came back from a missions trip to Ecuador recently and could not give me what I had asked for: A picture of the equator! It turns out that there’s not actually a large painted line bisecting the country! (Maybe I should have paid more attention in geography class. Come to think of it, I guess it would be hard to paint the ocean, too…)

Whitman eloquently points out that the boundaries all around us are largely of our own making. It’s true, you know. You don’t really have to be a racist. You don’t have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m ugly.” You are the one who decides those things, not God.

We hear regularly of prayer stories in which the awesome power of God is unleashed, but we limit our requests to think like, “help me discern whether or not to take a class this fall.” It not bad to pray about “little things,” but in so doing let’s not lose sight of the fact that God loves to do big things, too. And sometimes that “big thing” is changing the heart of someone on whom you’ve given up. Let’s not limit God’s interest in doing those things by thinking too small. Donald Trump once said, “if you’re going to dream anyway, you might as well dream big!”

Pay less or no attention today to the imaginary lines that surround you and the imaginary boxes that contain you. Your “yopp!” is heard by your maker. You are important, significant and yes, even awesome. But the goal of this journey is not to satisfy yourself because by all accounts that doesn’t seem to be possible. The goal is to free yourself to be the person whom God designed so many years ago. Now that’s something to yawp about!!


 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. --Psalm 139:13


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