RECEIVED KNOWLEDGE gets a bum rap in western culture, especially in American culture. I blame Walt Whitman for this, though it’s also true that given enough time and liquor I will eventually blame Walt Whitman for everything from the melting of the polar icecaps to the botched tallying of the election returns down in Palm Beach last fall. Uncle Walt, though, really was the guy who didn’t just champion the do-it-yourself ethic with respect to understanding the world and any experiences of it; he counted the workings of the senses as the actions of the divine spark within the mortal body:

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, he writes in “Song of Myself,” nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

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