Away O Soul, hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Sail forth—steer for the deep waters only;
Reckless O Soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.
O my brave Soul.
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!
Walt Whitman wrote the words above, and while they describe an actual, physical journey, they also encourage the seeking that is essential to a living faith. Whitman himself was non-committal when it came to claiming any one faith tradition; in today’s parlance he would probably identify as “spiritual not religious.” Still, some of his work contains the clearest and most passionate descriptions of the soul’s restless desire for discovery ever written.
This passage assumes a number of aspects of venturing out in whatever form that takes. First, we must commit–and not commit with half measures. Every sail must be shaken out as we strive toward the deep waters. Second, our adventuring must assume the exploration of new territory; when we leave our port, we will not always feel comfortable or secure. Embracing the unknown necessarily includes risk. Third, because of this reality, we should accept that our seeking will demand courage. In order to embark, the protective barriers around our hearts must fall away. And fourth, the poet confirms for us that the journey is long. Our seeking has no predetermined endpoint; we engage it for the sake of the trip rather than the expectation of one specific destination.
Finally, even in the midst of all these other realities, Whitman reminds us that we are safe. We dare to seek, but that venture is joyful because no matter where we journey we travel on “all the seas of God.” Because God is the inspiration, the means, the context and the destination of all our seeking, we know we can venture forth without fear.