How ample it is to rely on my own judgments and perceptions is largely revealed by outcomes on a day to day basis.  Forces beyond my control, i.e. the actions of others, natural disasters, are less or more important, depending mostly on my perception. Whether or not my choices are good ones are born out over time.

Obviously, I tend to over analyze, but sometimes it is a huge struggle to own my responses rather than to blame others when things don’t go the way I want.

I learn from Emily Dickinson’s “On a Columnar Self” to recognize self confidence as a measure of self knowledge.

On a Columnar Self –
How ample to rely
In Tumult – or Extremity –
How good the Certainty

That Lever cannot pry –
And Wedge cannot divide
Conviction – That Granitic Base –
Though none be on our side –

Sufficient Us – for a Crowd –
Ourself – and Rectitude –
And that Assembly – not far off
From furthest Spirit – God –

I like to think the reference to “a Columnar Self” is self analysis derived from two sources. First, self creation as the outcome of those vertical arrangements (poems) written on a page that accumulate into columns. Second, a self which is patterned after, or perceived as, an architectural element consisting of a pedestal (base), shaft, and entablature that spreads open at the top. 

The poem counsels me to rely on my choice of work if it is ample to resist whatever forces may oppose it, or me: “Though none be on our side – ”. Like the vertical nature of the column, which points or reaches toward heaven, I must have a substantial base for support. “That Granitic Base – ”, perhaps emblematic of the most durable “Wedge (that) cannot divide” me from myself, the grave.

There is such a sense of being pulled vertically, “Ourself – and Rectitude”, straight, as a consequence of being fully human (a horizontal plane), even if it means feeling alone in a crowd. Further than human crowds is “that Assembly” (heaven?) which is no more a part of “our side” than its “furthest Spirit – God”.


Digest A Poem A Day – Accept What Comes Your Way