I Am Large – I Contain Multitudes

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman

I remember when I first read Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself in college. I put down the thin book when I read that line, and stared off into space. I had wanted to cry.

At last – I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t broken. My curse-slash-talent of holding in tension two opposing thoughts as being simultaneously true wasn’t a character flaw, it wasn’t a symptom of a mind that just couldn’t determine the truth. It wasn’t something I alone had experienced.

At last I had permission to truly free my mind, and to allow myself to live in to my ability to see multiple sides and believe them all to be true.

  • America could at once be an amazing country, and also have significant challenges
  • Religion could at once be a comfort and source of direction, and also be used to pit people against one another
  • Police could at once be sources of safety, and also of fear
  • Businesses could at once be obsessed with making a buck, while also being one of our primary opportunities for positively influencing millions of lives

Once I gave myself the permission to be comfortable with the contradictions in my own head, I began to see ways in which I could help those staunchly on one side of the contradiction or the other locate common ground.

It’s through building this common ground that I am convinced real change will happen – people working in conjunction rather than in conflict. People accepting the contradictions, and that together they are part of the multitudes.

Reading Whitman gave me the courage to embrace my own mind. I have tried to emulate this in my own life by being open about my ideas, faults, and challenges, in the hopes that others will feel more able to be open as well. You’ll see this manifest in this blog through my writing on controversial topics and positions and in my sticking my foot in my mouth.

My goal is to start dialogues. I hope to help you think of things in a new way. And I hope you’ll be open in challenging my thoughts and assumptions.

What would you like to talk about?

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3 thoughts on “I Am Large – I Contain Multitudes

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  1. I love that you are writing about this, and I think this perspective is very needed. I’d be interested in reading about the struggle to prioritize the protection of the environment, which is something that benefits every human being, without also making some groups feel marginalized because environmental protection can mean restrictions and limits on commercial activity.

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    1. Hi Daron! That’s definitely a tough topic. Have you heard of Shared Value? It’s a concept that the founders of my firm helped to codify. At its essence, it argues that companies can see business value by changing its practices to be more equitable (and environmentally friendly).

      We run the Shared Value Initiative and there’s a few resources there that are specific to environment/climate change – take a look! Obviously we are still a far cry from where we need to be, but I think using the Shared Value perspective will be our best bet in making lasting industry-wide changes.

      http://sharedvalue.org/resources?keys=&field_industries_tid=All&field_geography_tid=All&field_resource_social_issue_tid=556&field_resource_type_tid=All&sort_by=created&=Filter

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  2. I would love to see a discussion on education reform. There is a definite disconnect between the policy makers, their constituents, and the teachers…oh, and the students.

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