always with understanding,
and to do,
always in obedience.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Poetry isolates the
of experience, i.e.
philosophy finds the
of experience, i.e.,
*Pith is to power as candor is to knowledge. This is because brightness is to knowledge as strength is to power. "Pith" derives etymologically from strength (to be "pithy" was to be "strong and vigorous"). "Candor" derives, like "candle", from the "Proto-Indo-European root *kand- to glow, to shine, to shoot out light".
**I want to keep the analogy between way and place, so something else had to serve as contrast here. I like the Latin roots of "mass", in massa: "kneaded dough, lump, that which adheres together like dough". And I like the way mass and moment suggest things like momentum and inertia, the susceptibility to change.
The tensile strength
of the string in the bow
limits the power available
to the arrow's impact.
The strength of the string
in the lyre, determines
the quality its sound.
The quality of the light
in the lantern depends upon
the brightness of the candle.
The knowledge available
in the pictured scene
depends on the luminosity of
of the filament in the bulb.
brightness is to knowledge
as strength is to power.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Sunday, May 19, 2013
"First must thou go the road to hell.
...sail after knowledge." (Canto 47)
In March of 1963, when Ezra Pound was 77 years old, the Italian magazine Epoca published an interview with him in which he described a "realization" that, were it not for the despair in his tone, an Eastern sage might interpret as a moment of enlightenment.
I have lived all my life believing that I knew something. And then a strange day came and I realised that I knew nothing, that I knew nothing at all. And so words have become empty of meaning. . . .
It is something I have come to through suffering. Yes, through an experience of suffering. . . .
I have come too late to a state of total uncertainty, where I am conscious only of doubt. . . .
I do not work any more. I do nothing. I fall into lethargy, and I contemplate. . . .
Everything that I touch, I spoil. I have blundered always. (Quoted in Heymann 1976, p. 276)
It would take only a very small gestalt shift to align this description with the experience of "moksha", in which the sage attains a free relation to social life by overcoming the eternal cycle of death and rebirth.
Sri Ramana Maharshi, who was six years older than Pound (but died already in 1950), reached this insight "spontaneously" at the age of 16, overcome by a fear of death that "drove [his] mind inwards". Peter Holleran puts it this way: "He was unable to do anything to avoid this fear, the fear of death, and he surrendered himself and passed through it to realize the deathless Self, prior to the ego-I." We might say he suffered in a single moment what Pound spent a lifetime coming to terms with. But it should be noted that in another sense that single moment lasted twenty-three years (when he lived in a cave).
After Mauberley (1920), Pound seems to have spent 25 years "in error", "wrong from the start". (See Kenner's, The Pound Era, p. 556). In May 1945, he entered a cage.
The realization that Pound almost seemed to have arrived at, but could never quite accept (although who knows how he felt at the end?), was that the knowledge he sought, the ideas he wanted to get in order "for his poem", was not possible. I have been at the edge of this realization for years now, too, never quite willing to give in, never quite able to let go (the muc of mukti?) of an understanding of the world that makes of it a kind of hell. The sociology of a society that lacks all justification (in so far as authority comes from right reason).
And yet, that society persists. I am complicit in it.
Already in 1948 in the Pisan Cantos, Pound knew what was in the way, namely, vanity. "Tear down thy vanity," he roared (though there is some question about whether he meant this to apply to himself). "Master thyself," he says, "then others shall thee bear." This I think is the essential point. There can be no knowledge of social relations, only an empowerment with respect to them. The goal is not self-knowledge but self-mastery. Or, to put it in terms of pangrammatical analogy, there can be no understanding of these matters only precision in our obedience to the socius.
I, too, obey. Whatever I may think. Which shows that my thoughts are errors. My "refusals" of "most things", as Williams put it, are imprecise.
I understand this. Or, I understand that I can't understand it—and must finally find a way to obey. But I share Pound's vanity. "Too late," Irving Layton has Whitman reply to Pound, "you learned humility and love." I indulge in the hope that it is not too late for me. I want to learn not just that I don't know what I thought I knew but that this knowledge was never possible, nor necessary.
Friday, May 17, 2013
I stumbled on Rob Braynton's work this morning. It's thought-provoking stuff. I was especially moved by his suggestion that "time" is not a dimension but a direction. The relevant dimension, he says, is duration. I like that basic idea because duration is much more like the experience of length, width, and breadth. Though I must say I've always thought those names for three dimensions to be a bit arbitrary, a bit "seen from nowhere".
Shouldn't we start with a central "here" and then construct the dimensions by way of a proximal "there". (Not quite sure how to do that. Haven't thought it through yet.)
Anyway, it of course reminded me of Ezra Pound's "fourth dimension" in Canto 49, i.e., "stillness".
My preference is not to think of "dimensions" at all but modalities.
In the center. As ever. The image.
Then, the stilled image,
and the moving image.
From there we can observe the modalities of perception, five in all.
And the modalities of action, five in all.
Pound proposed to map experience "in periplum", not from some privileged point.
I think stillness and motion provide good starting points. The basis of the "here" and the "now".
Perhaps dimensionality is a coordination of modalities. "Space" is the stillness through which I can move (a place). "Time" is the movement in which I remain still (a moment). The so-called "higher" dimensions are merely the experience of thought and feeling. If there are "possible worlds", we travel to them all the time in imagining what could have been. If there are "interdimensional beings" we communicate with them all the time, in imagination.
I don't like the idea of dimensions we have not yet experienced. As Braynton says (without quite getting the same point out of it that I do), we experience the "back" of objects all the time, we just do it after we've seen the "front" of them. Likewise, if there is a dimension of "probability", we don't need to build a machine to get there. We already have access to it; we're "in it" as much as we are in the dimension of length. I.e., we have length. We have thoughts. Maybe the fifth dimension just is thought.