Saturday, June 25, 2005

On Composure (as such)

Suppose there were never any doubt about the answers to the following questions.

1. What is it?
2. Who am I?

(There is a wonderful moment in the passage from page 209 to page 210 of Henry Miller's Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch where he gets you to stop up and consider the question, "What is the task of genuine love?" If I were that kind of writer we'd be doing that sort of thing now.)

I don't mean these questions in the sense that can be traced to mere ignorance (1) or impotence (2). I mean the first in the sense of "I know it's a damn apple, but what is it?" or maybe "What is it with you tonight?" I mean, "What is it really? And I mean, "Who am I ideally (whatever my name is)?"

I have deliberately not said "suppose you were never in doubt about. . ." because I want to engage with the mystery at its deepest level. Imagine, then, a culture where these questions just never came up.

Such cultures would have no need for philosophy or poetry. And just as the good doctor is the one who seeks his own obsolescence, so too are poets and philosophers forever striving for the culture I am describing.

They want to install these answers in the language itself (or they would be content to remain silent). They are working out that system of notation that would be a substitute for thought and feeling.

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