Launch Forth

Did you know that Walt Whitman wrote a poem about social media and the internet? Yeah, I didn’t either, until Ze Frank told me in his video Thinks Like Me.

Side note… I am in love with Ze Frank. Not in a weird– please be my best friend, stalker sort of  way, although I did start digging through his online closet after he started following me on Twitter and sent me some great advice, through a spat of DMs, concerning my Daraja fundraiser,–but more in a, I really respect you man, sort of way.

Maybe in love is the wrong way to put it– I love Ze Frank? Still sounds weird. I respect, admire, am in awe of…no no love will do. I love Ze Frank. Perhaps my admiration stems from the fact that I am new to his work. Yes,  I knew of him through the Young Me, Now Me project, but I had never fully explored the extent of his work. Now that I have, explored, I  realize that much of what he does is everything I love about the web, about people, about life. His work is light, funny, deep, poignant, collaborative, beautiful, loving, self-deprecating, and true. While he doesn’t take himself too seriously, the work speaks volumes about the human experience in the digital age. …end side note.

Sorry this wasn’t meant to be a declaration of love to Ze, it was meant to be about Walt, Spiders, and The Interwebz. I love it when my passions collide: Poetry by ancient bearded queers, social media, arachnids, and online collaborative artists? Yes please. I am assuming you have already watched Thinks Like Me.

What you haven’t watched it yet? Decided to skip that hyperlink, cuz there were too many? I can’t say I am not disappointment in your lack of media literacy, but that is fine. You are learning and I am a teacher. I get that too many links can be annoying, but sometimes you need to stop and read the links that is what a hyperlink is after all: an embedded connection to other content to clarify and add context to existing text.

Anyway, watch the video, you need it for contextual reference if we are to continue. (Man! That is a lot of alliteration or is it consonance?) We will be dealing with the part around 2:3o where he casually mentions that (this) Whitman poem:

It’s about the web right? You and me? Connecting? We are the spiders right? Isolated exploring the vacant, vast surroundings? Launching forth filament, instagrams, filament, Facebook updates, filament, out of ourselves. Aren’t we ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them. Aren’t we surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of (cyber) space. Ceaselessly musing, blogging, venturing, you-tubing, throwing, tweeting—seeking the spheres, to connect them. You to me. Us? Till the bridge we will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold? Aren’t we hoping that flung gossamer thread will catch somewhere? That someone will read? Comment? Re-tweet? Spin the web of our consciousnesses?

O my soul indeed! I get it Ze. I get it. And so did my grade seven students when we looked at this poem and I mentioned it might be about the internet. They smiled, cuz it is that simple and clear and obvious. That technology and social media is not about technology or social media, it is about connection. It is about the human need to launch forth from itself! Whitman got it, over a hundred years ago. Only difference is that now, it is easier to find an anchor hold. The gossamer threads are  fiber-optic and packed with multi-media, which in and of itself adds layers of complexity, but the need to connect, to create, to share is timeless.

All of this philosophizing reminds me of a post I wrote last year, Far From Home on a Dark Night.

Maybe what you are feeling, someone else feels. Maybe what you are feeling, someone else feels.Wow! That is what I wanted all along.

Seems relevant somehow. Looks like more and more of us are feeling it. Interesting that Justin also uses the metaphor of threads. What do you think? Walt Whitman- social media expert? I can see his Twitter handle now:



11 thoughts on “Launch Forth

  1. avatarMalyn
    Twitter: malynmawby

    Ze Frank is awesome so thanks for the shout out – finally discovered him. And that video… moving! and that collaboration with the artist is pure genius.

    I agree with your analysis of Whitman (love the guy)’s poems. I do want to add that this tech-facilitated ease and frequency of connection heightens the loneliness of unbidden disconnection. Because we are so connected, when we are forced to disconnect (ie. we didn’t choose it) we can feel lost and lonely; in effect, we are at a higher risk of feeling lonely even with the frequency and tools to help us connect – a paradox.

    Another is this…the bridge is not always to other people. The bridge could be to a part of myself – perhaps undiscovered, fragmented, forgotten or repressed. The very act of “musing, venturing, throwing…” when blogging helps me discover more about me in the process.

  2. avatarAlison Armstrong
    Twitter: alisonmusicblog

    I’ve been reading your tweets all week about Ze Frank. Now I get it.

    As for Walt Whitman, I haven’t been exposed enough to his work, so you’ve inspired to seek more out. Could this be because of the annoying amount of time we spent on Australian poetry while I was at school? Actually, that’s no excuse, my dad has a collection of his writing in his library.

  3. avatarJim Groom
    Twitter: jimgroom

    Bully for Ze Frank and you, this poem is really powerful in terms of framing the true power of the web, technical and otherwise, of connections of people, ideas, and emotions. Brilliant.

  4. avatarFrederic Robinson
    Twitter: boygospel

    Hi Jabiz!
    My name is Frederic Robinson and I attended the University of South Alabama. I’m in a class called EDM310 and I’m studying Physical Education. I wrote you last week.
    I just read your post about Walt Whitman and Ze Frank. I watched the video by Ze Frank and was impressed. I’m currently doing a study on Walt Whitman for Literature class and I’m a christian artist, who sings rap. So I can appreciate both Frank and Whitman. Whitman for releasing life on paper and Frank for connecting to people. You also talked about connecting. We must all connect with someone, it’s a part of life. The internet can be a great tool for connection if used properly. I don’t beleive it to be a god or a source of religion but rather a tool allowed by God to connect the world and better our nations(if used properly). Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, they are always helpful!

    1. avatarJabiz Post author

      Thanks for reading regularly Fredric. I appreciate your insight. Studying Whitman, what are the odds!

  5. avataronepercentyellow
    Twitter: onepercentyello

    What a great post! I’m now subscribed to Ze Frank. Why was I not before???
    @Malyn! So well said. I find this archive part of the internet to be a very interesting part of online life. In ways that were never possible before, you can reach out and touch a part of your past self. It is there in a way, staring you in the face, that it wasn’t before. This can make forgiveness a much more important thing than it ever was before.

    And connecting with all of you… wow. I can’t say how much it has meant to me over the long miles.

    Love the goading to click on the hyperlink! It’s so true!!! hahaha (or for you Spanish speakers… jajajaja)

  6. avatarAshley Phillips
    Twitter: anphillips01

    Hi Mr. Jabiz,
    I have been following this blog for a few weeks and it just keeps getting more interesting. I am a student at the University of South Alabama and an education major. I truly felt the meaning of Walt Whitman’s poem after you put in into perspective for me. I have never really read anything of his. Thanks.
    Now, that I have discovered Ze Frank, I will definitely be following him. WOW. His thoughts are amazing. I watched the video you suggested, and took a important aspect of it with me ; which was that our thoughts that make us feel unconnected somehow can connect all of us.
    Thanks for sharing,

    1. avatarJabiz Post author

      Glad it resonated with you Ashely. It was a an “A Ha!” moment for me as well. I will use this poem and analogy in the future.


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