I Sing The Body Electric by Whitman -- With Guest Alex Spenser
For thousands of years the West has inculcated a "mind-body" or "soul-body" dichotomy. This is the idea that the body is inferior to the spirit, or consciousness. This dichotomy has given us religious ascetics who destroy their own bodies as well as sadism.
In modern America it has given us a bizarre coyness and bashfulness to our own nudity. In this poem by Walt Whitman, he glorifies the body as equal to the soul. The poem is a song to the body electric, or our bodies that vibrant with the music of poetry.
My guest, on the show today Alex Spenser of wordswithwings.com, and I had a really fun converse with verse with this poem. We also talked about the nature of art, how art affects our lives, the practicality of painting and poetry and literature. At one point in the poem Whitman talks about sex and we could not help but discuss modern male/female relationships, particularly with regards to feminism.
I Sing the Body Electric
BY WALT WHITMAN
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?