Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman

In the grand, often bewildering buffet of life, where the dishes range from ‘Exhilarating Joy’ to ‘Existential Dread’ with a side of ‘What on Earth am I Doing with My Life?’, it’s easy to feel like a lost fork in a drawer of soup spoons. We’ve all been there, standing at the existential crossroads, asking ourselves the big questions: “If life is a party, why wasn’t I given the dress code?” and “Am I the only one who brought a kazoo to a symphony?”

Enter Walt Whitman, the bearded bard of the American spirit, who saunters into this buffet of bewilderment with a platter of perspective. He doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the buffet’s more questionable offerings—the sorrow, the self-doubt, and the seemingly endless episodes of ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ that make us question the very fabric of reality. But Whitman, in his infinite wisdom, doesn’t linger on the overcooked Brussels sprouts of despair. Instead, he nudges us towards the dessert section, where the existential éclairs and motivational macaroons await.

Whitman serves up a reminder that, amidst the cacophony of life’s buffet, each of us is equipped with a unique instrument—be it a kazoo, a triangle, or a shiny trombone. The symphony of life might be overwhelming, with its complex compositions and intimidating virtuosos, but here’s the twist: the symphony needs that kazoo. It yearns for the unexpected charm of a triangle solo. It’s in this eclectic mix of sounds that the true magic of the melody emerges.

So, what’s your verse? It’s that thing you do that makes your friends say, “Well, that’s…different.” It’s the passion project that makes your parents gently suggest, “Have you considered law school?” It’s the quirky, the odd, the utterly you. And here’s the kicker – it’s essential. In the grand composition of existence, your verse adds a flavor, a color, a spark that no one else can.

Life, with all its absurdities and uncertainties, is not about finding the one grand answer or fitting into the conventional mold. It’s about embracing the glorious mess of it all, kazoo in hand, ready to add your unique sound to the mix. It’s about looking at the overcooked Brussels sprouts and saying, “I’ll pass, but have you tried these existential éclairs?”

So the next time you find yourself at life’s buffet, feeling a tad overwhelmed by the choices, remember Whitman’s wisdom. Grab your kazoo, fill your plate with a healthy serving of laughter, a dollop of dreams, and perhaps a macaroon or two. And when the music starts, play your verse with gusto.

After all, it’s the unexpected kazoos that often make the symphony unforgettable.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Product + Content Marketing at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.