Notations from The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham

What I thought, when I’d only reached page four of the text, might leave me for a shitty distasteful feeling that I would wish to scrub from my mind and body as one would a rape–should I continue to read. I took a great amount of time, even in my sleep, considering the context of this book, that had a copy date of 1926. I decided to be amazed to wonder over how the writer thought and how much I will never know if he wrote with the view and influence of humans present in his social grouping at the time. I wonder, even, if he might have been considered a rogue, bluntly writing as he willed his hand to do.

“…They learn little on their wanderings beyond how to cadge, how to steal, how to avoid dogs and the police. They are not pilgrims but outlaws, and many would be highway robbers had they the vitality and the pluck necessary to hold up wayfarers. Most of them are but poor walkers, so that the word tramp is often misapplied to them….”

Later, on page 29, he writes, “…Class is the most disgusting institution of civilization, because it puts barriers between man and man….”

The remaining notes, from my best recollection, are simply things that struck me.

“So when we look on a river we are affected by its hidden relationship to our own life. The river interprets our mood. The road suggests God as a taskmaster who would have us work; the river suggests Him as a poet who would have us live in poetry. The Creator must be a poet–not a General or a Judge or a Master Builder; there is so much of pure poetry in His creation….”

“What is a tramping day if it does not liberate a voice, so that you can sing out your soul to the free sky.”

“The heart can be lifted up by poetry even more than by song. And the inner meaning and the sense of a poem becomes one’s own on the march when it lends it rhythms and verbal emotions to express the hidden yearnings of one’s own being.”

“The life opens us with its very breadth. Is your friend too thin; do not diet him under a white ceiling, but give him air. Air will fill him. It is not the air alone that cures and fills, but what you breathe in with the air. You breathe in the spirit of the open. You breathe in the wideness of the sky; you reach out to the free horizon. It makes a man big, it builds a man within.”

“In the long halt, therefore, one has not stopped living, because one has ceased going onward. You get poised on your center. You feel the origins of joy and pain–deep down at the heart’s core, the place from which something in you is welling up all the while, welling up and overflowing, flowing away in waves and tides, to break on a mystical shore.”

“Self-expression is life. What gives more satisfaction to one’s being than to have expressed oneself.”

“Each day Nature puts her magic mirror in our hands. ‘Oh child, do you see yourself today?'”

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4 thoughts on “Notations from The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham

  1. Sometimes if we go deeper into a book, and put some of the content in context to the writer’s point of view, we indeed are surprised to discover wonderful little tidbits. I like his analogy to a river showing us our moods. Also like the idea of “poised in our center”. To me that perfectly describes the alchemy of realization.

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    • Sometimes I take the chosen words, simply because they mean something to me, like God talking to me, my own special meaning and relevance. Other times I choose a writing because of the context. Sometimes I choose a writing, in which I do not believe nor agree, to see if there is something that I might need to see. To me, all of these are tidbits. A sign that I am out of whack is when I cannot find a thing over which to ponder.

      I, well, I’m having a wee bit of trouble, and I am a bit embarrassed to say that I am having trouble identifying with the river showing us moods interpretation that you have/had. I would like to see that view, thus I am motivated to find out, even if I feel unsure and stupid.

      I want to investigate “alchemy of realization” do you have suggestions? I felt “poised in our center” as meaning grounding. Grounding though for me is funny, because when I can feel me, I can look further out. I wonder if you mean realization of self and beyond self and how the two can merge?

      I wonder too, when we write back and forth, if my focus on words is more to you than what it is to me. I can be very literal and black and white about words. Each one, even feelings and the abstract things, gets translated into a picture. In order to learn and to broaden my blackness or whiteness I assimilate similar words and chunk them together. Intent then is very important for me to understand, because I truly wish to understand beyond my own perceptions and ideas. I might not change my own. I just want to build my book of images and associations, to generalize knowledge so that I can use it as wisdom, or to recognize folly. Maybe these words will help. I miss my friend.

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      • I guess, in the moment of reading, it struck me that many times people do not see the world as simply what it is. They do not see a river as a river. Or, if they do, it’s a reflection of themselves. The river and the person not really separate, one intertwined perception. That’s what arose like a knowing when reading that tidbit.

        I’m not sure, though, that you need to feel stupid and unsure. I hardly ever know where another person is coming from. I just start playing on the edges of where I imagine they are coming from. But it takes such long deepening and time and commitment to really find out from where a person comes. Have barely been able to discern Barry or the kids!

        The words “poised in our center” mean just about the same thing as “enlightenment” to me. Just another way of expressing. “Alchemy of realization”…well, the way things must come together if we’re to realize our Oneness.

        I am rarely literal or black and white about words. A word can be so big as to include the planet. Am always trying to seek within a word or concept to make it larger and less limited, to find ways of connection. Also do not process visually very much. Phew! Lots of talk early this morning. Your friend is no longer around? I am sorry you are missing him.

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