M. SCOTT MORRIS: Loafing and inviting souls



Every so often, I get the urge to say something that shakes the world, then I stare at a blank computer for embarrassingly long stretches of time.

Maybe that’s OK.

Walt Whitman wrote, “I loafe and invite my soul,” which might’ve been an attack on the Protestant work ethic. Too much loafing and too much soul-inviting leaves less time for plowing a field, sewing a shirt or churning butter.

Though I imagine churning butter would let you gaze into space while actually accomplishing something. The same might be said of plowing one row after another, depending on how well the mule, horse or ox knows its job.

I’m not sure about sewing shirts. Whenever I replace buttons, it requires about all my brain has to offer.

Some of today’s jobs have built-in moments for soul-inviting. A toll booth worker on a road without much traffic could gather enough mental wool to make quite the metaphysical blanket, if so inclined.

I do plenty of thinking when driving for work. The Natchez Trace Parkway is usually five to 15 minutes slower than other routes. I use the time to consider what I’m going to do, what I just did or what it might feel like to fly.

But I wouldn’t want a bus driver to spend on-the-clock time loafing and inviting the soul. I’ve got nothing against his soul – or hers, for that matter – but it’s best for people in charge of large machinery to stay focused.

I wonder about those who sit in tall seats and drive modern-day plows. I sometimes see them from the road and can’t decide if it takes a force of will to keep the rows straight, or does the machine “want” to do right, the way the best mules, horses and oxen might have in the old days?

If I were going under the knife, I’d want my surgeon’s full attention, but I’d also want someone who knew how to let go the cares of the day. Nobody wants a surgeon with bunched-up nerves.

“I loafe and invite my soul,” Whitman wrote, as if he had nothing better to do.

Maybe he didn’t.

He’s an acknowledged master of American poetry more than 100 years after his death. Is that staying power related to loafing and soul-inviting?

Of course, not all loafing invites the soul, and too much might push it away.

The work ethic – Protestant or otherwise – needs to kick in eventually, I’d imagine, or the mule, horse or ox would keep going into the neighbor’s field. What would that get you, except for a happy neighbor and a worn out mule, horse or ox?

Whitman didn’t just lay on the grass all day and think pretty thoughts. He dipped his pen in messy ink and wrote those thoughts down, perhaps to inspire thoughts in us, earth-shaking or not.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

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