The Existential Man — Kenne L. Turner   Leave a comment

Looking for Something Other Than Who He Is

With sister Jean coming into my life, we are writing and talking much, eager to learn about each other. A common theme throughout our sharing of things past is establishing or reestablishing a relationship with our dad – to bring meaning to who he was, for there is no sense of his having been real when there is no meaning.

Determining one’s own identity can, and often is, a lifelong process since the world is constantly changing and needs, satisfactions, values, and expectations continue to evolve. Assuming this, seeking the true identity of a parent can be daunting. Therefore, I remind myself daily that individual and universal meaning is about gathering information so as not to repress or overlook a single phenomenon. To do so, we set up preferences creating false expectations, therefore dooming ourselves to ignorance or at least to a prison of doubt. Walt Whitman wrote of such an existence in his poem: “Of The Terrible Doubt of Appearances.”

Of the terrible doubt of appearances,

Of the uncertainty after all–that we may be deluded,

That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations after all,

That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful fable only,

May-be the things I perceive–the animals, plants, men, hills,

shining and flowing waters,

The skies of day and night–colors, densities, forms–May-be these

are, (as doubtless they are,) only apparitions, and the real

something has yet to be known;

(How often they dart out of themselves, as if to confound me and mock


How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows, aught of them;)

May-be seeming to me what they are, (as doubtless they indeed but

seem,) as from my present point of view–And might prove, (as

of course they would,) naught of what they appear, or naught

any how, from entirely changed points of view;

–To me, these, and the like of these, are curiously answer’d by my

lovers, my dear friends; 10

When he whom I love travels with me, or sits a long while holding me

by the hand,

When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and reason

hold not, surround us and pervade us,

Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom–I am silent–I

require nothing further,

I cannot answer the question of appearances, or that of identity

beyond the grave;

But I walk or sit indifferent–I am satisfied,

He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.

We may arrive with an answer that his identity is forever in process, and that at this moment he is more in the future than anything he was in the past. Therefore, our best answer to his identity is no particular answer but stands open to reality. This is the true void to which we must ultimately come.

— kenne

Posted February 4, 2009 by kenneturner in Commentary, Family, Life, Poetry

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