A Barbaric Yawp

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

(Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 52)

The sense of doom I’m experiencing about the state of Afghanistan, the post-hurricane turmoil in Haiti, the Delta Variant, and the unmitigated threat of climate change (and probably several other heinous crises) had me feeling deeply agitated. While the world always has its crises, this moment in particular feels complex and fraught. It’s easy to feel distracted and isolated.

Thanks to Dead Poets Society, many of us recognize Walt Whitman’s concept of the barbaric yawp—a letting loose of that energy which is deep within us. But we may not so easily recall the line that immediately precedes it: “…I, too, am untranslatable.” Sometimes it is neither possible nor necessarily to make logical sense of our feelings. It is, however, critical that we complete our stress response cycles so that we might return (for a while) to a sustainable stasis.

So if (when) you’re feeling untranslatable, take the time to let out a barbaric yawp. Scream. Sprint. Throw out some punches. Knit. Meditate. Read. It’s not always necessary (or valuable) to make logical sense of everything you feel.