“The volcanic upheaval of the nation, after that firing on the flag at Charleston, proved for certain something which had been previously in great doubt, and at once substantially settled the question of disunion. In my judgment it will remain as the grandest and most encouraging spectacle yet vouchsafed in any age, old or new, to political progress and democracy” , stated Whitman in this text.  Whitman described this experience as National Will finally surfacing for Americans.  Whitman said out of all the days of the war, two stick out immensely to him.  Those occasions were the battle of Bull Run, and Abraham Lincoln’s death.  He says his mother and him barely said a word and could not eat, only silently pass the paper between one another.  The war all in all, was difficult for Whitman.  He sat by bedsides, he visited hospitals,and saw the destruction these battles were actually doing to families.  Whitman visited particular hospitals to soothe patients, a truly kind man at heart.

July 4th, Whitman tells us how he visited more patients.  “I walk’d on to Armory hospital—took along with me several bottles of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went through several of the wards, announc’d to the soldiers the news from Meade, and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water, quite refreshing—prepar’d it all myself, and serv’d it around.” He reaccounts how he heard the Washington bells ringing in the background.  More weeks pass, the weather becomes more unbearable, and Washington believes they have seen the worst.  “So here she sits with her surrounding hills spotted with guns, and is conscious of a character and identity different from what it was five or six short weeks ago, and very considerably pleasanter and prouder.”

On October 20th, Whitman talks of the stars and a long walk after a long visit to the hospital.  Its remarkable how such things he can still take notice of after all the awful and morbid things he sees during his days.  “Somehow it look’d rebukefully strong, majestic, there in the delicate moonlight. The sky, the planets, the constellations all so bright, so calm, so expressively silent, so soothing, after those hospital scenes. I wander’d to and fro till the moist moon set, long after midnight.”

“During those three years in hospital, camp or field, I made over six hundred visits or tours, and went, as I estimate, counting all, among from eighty thousand to a hundred thousand of the wounded and sick, as sustainer of spirit and body in some degree, in time of need.” Whitman considers these three years the greatest of his life.  These experiences taught him the most profound lesson of his life.  Whitman, during this time, slighted not a soul.  Whitman comments on the thousands of “unknown” graves, this passage simply gave me goosebumps.  One can tell through his writings that he truly was affected in every way by these battles.  “–it is best they should not—the real war will never get in the books.” Whitman believed a race was determined by how it faced death and anguish. “– in the glints of emotions under emergencies, and the indirect traits and asides in Plutarch, we get far profounder clues to the antique world than all its more formal history.”

Trachtenberg argues in the other text we had to read for todays blog, that “how each of these albums (Brady & Gardners) of war confronts this intractable power to depict war as an event in everyday life.”  These illustrations really show us what war was.  Photographs represent actuality.  They show more than an artists hand at work.  “They appear as tokens of a remembered horror, ” states Trachtenberg.  Photos of this war represent the unthinkable, the unimaginable.  “The real war will never get in the books.” -Walt Whitman.  “We think of Whitman’s words as a lament, a loss for which, however, we can find consolation in photographs” says Trachetenberg.  We know that there is different relation between image and text.  However, in Gardners work, he places text under each of his images, along with dates.  The real war, lies in images and texts.  Both tell us of a history we were not present for, but can relive throughout others words and photography. For Whitman’s sake, we can see the real war throughout photos.

Emily Dickinson, as a poet, is not so easy to comprehend. Much of her poetry needs to be read multiple times, and much of what she is trying to say is hidden beneath the surface.  She often writes about her valuing nature, accepting death, or exploring religion. A term in class that we have been concentrating on is the camera obscura.  The camera obscura guaranteed access to an objective truth about the outside world.  This was a device that needed lightness and darkness to function properly, and helped the people of the time think and understand more about vision. According to Jonathan Crary, “the camera obscura was a demonstration of how an observer can know the world uniquely by perception of the mind.”  He goes on to say, “founded on laws of nature- that is, geometrical optics- the camera provided an infallible vantage point of the world.” Much like Dickinson’s poems that describe, “seeing”, the camera obscura shows us a view of  “seeing” the world as well.

In poem 648, Dickinson literally and figuratively describes a dying eye.  In comparing the camera obscura to this poem’s, “seeing”, we can actually start with this “Dying Eye”.  Vision is impossible without the eye, and obviously the camera obscura would be of no use without eyes.  This eye was “in search of something- as it seemed- then cloudier become- and then- obscure with Fog-.” Here is another reference to seeing.  The cloudier the air is, the more difficult it is to see.  Much like the camera obscura would be of no use, if we were trying to use it in a dense fog.  As the eye was searching for something and as it became more cloudy, the fog made things not clear and vague and difficult to view.   She goes on to describe how, “without disclosing what it be ‘twere blessed to have seen-” What I get out of this, is that many take advantage of how beautiful sight and seeing really are.  We are blessed to have working eyes, and a dying eye, should be grateful that he or she has seen such marvelous things.  Much like we should be grateful for the camera obscura.  This device paved the way for advanced technology today.  The camera obscura, like our eyes, showed us the truth and beauty of the world around us.

The camera obscura was one of the inventions that led to photography.  Both words come from Latin, meaning, “darkened chamber or room”.  Which is ironic because photography would not be possible if it were not for light.  “Above all, whether in the work of scientists or artists, empiricists or rationalists, it was an apparatus that guaranteed access to an objective truth about the world.” After reading that sentence three more times and trying to really grasp it, I started thinking about the world without visual images.  With only seeing things in your own life.  No broadcasting of casualties in Iraq, no college basketball games, and no soap-operas! Event though some do not show the truth of the world, our lives would still be entirely different.  Much of the war we are in know, is only known about because of images.  “Observation leads to truthful inferences about an external world.”  The camera obscura was a model for producing truth and image.  Without these small steps towards photography we would never be where we are today.  The camera obscura brought our culture and our observing skills to where they are today.

“I know that the world I converse with in the city and in the farms, is not the world I think. I observe that difference and shall observe it. One day, I shall know the value and law of this discrepance.” Emerson claims this at the very end of his text.  I think he shows us here that everyone sees differently our of their eyes.  No two people are alike, everyone makes judgements, and everyone has predetermined thoughts on people they do not even know.  No two worlds are alike.

Emerson also talks about observing success, and how that is not often as observed as having a good income or a decent job.  We as humans, don’t observe which the world creates.  Perhaps, we are examining all the wrong images.  Perhaps we should return to the camera obscura, for that showed the most truth.