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My father-in-law is suffering from a degenerative nerve disorder and, though he has his wits, he is losing some of the basic physical abilities we all take for granted. Simple activities like standing up and walking, grasping objects, and unzipping to take a pee, have become supreme efforts for him.

To the man's credit, he has allowed the suffering to open him to the sublime quality of acceptance. There is an aura of infectious peacefulness about him. At our Thanksgiving dinner, one of the rare occasions he left his bed in recent weeks, he announced with intense emphasis "nothing is wrong, nor has anything ever been wrong."

Hearing this simple statement woke something up in me. Sitting at table with family, his words opened me to the moment and I became more aware of the other people, the intermingled smells of the woodstove and delicious food, our collective atmosphere, and the gift of so much abundance, safety, and connection. My body relaxed and into that state which was equally full and empty came the words of a poem that had touched me in a similar way when I read it as a teenager.

The poet was a member of an extinct species of true Americans, men and women with real American values. Walt Whitman was part of quasi-secret society that called themselves the Transcendentalists. The membership included such luminaries as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller. They were basically 19th-century bohemian artists, reading the Bhagavad Gita, practicing meditation, and sharing their perceptions in artful, timeless prose that became American scripture.

Here's the poem, about radical acceptance, and the realization that every person, every action or object, every event or experience is a root or branch or leaf of the same great tree of truth.

All is Truth

by Walt Whitman

O ME, man of slack faith so long! Standing aloof—denying portions so long; Only aware to-day of compact, all-diffused truth; Discovering to-day there is no lie, or form of lie, and can be none, but grows as inevitably upon itself as the truth does upon itself, Or as any law of the earth, or any natural production of the earth does.

(This is curious, and may not be realized immediately —But it must be realized; I feel in myself that I represent falsehoods equally with the rest, And that the universe does.)

Where has fail'd a perfect return, indifferent of lies or the truth? Is it upon the ground, or in water or fire? or in the spirit of man? or in the meat and blood?

Meditating among liars, and retreating sternly into myself, I see that there are really no liars or lies after all, And that nothing fails its perfect return—And that what are called lies are perfect returns, And that each thing exactly represents itself, and what has preceded it, And that the truth includes all, and is compact, just as much as space is compact, And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount of the truth—but that all is truth without exception; And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see or am, And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.

And here is a corollary aphorism from a related mystic, Jellaludin Rumi: "The counterfeit exists only because there is such a thing as real gold."

—Jason Stern

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