Friday, November 17, 2017

Precision Poetry and the Bill of Responsibilities

In the previous post we touched on the mystery of how subjectivity enters the cosmos and existence becomes experience -- or, existence starts to experience itself. It seems to me that as soon as one begins using words to describe this development, one is vulnerable to misleading and/or being misled.

For example, in the first sentence above, I alluded to subjectivity "entering" the cosmos. I then referenced existence "becoming" experience. Neither of these can be accurate; they are loaded with preconceptions that will lead us astray if simply followed blindly.

They are similar to the mind-matter dualism, which is just a conclusion masquerading as a premise. The one is defined in terms of the other, but neither is defined in terms of itself. In other words, to say "mind-matter" is a way to conceal the fact that one has no earthly idea what mind (or matter) is. The terms are just placeholders for certain properties.

Only metaphysics can rescue us from this linguistic rabbit hole of mirrors.

Yesterday afternoon the term popped into my head unbidden: precision poetry. That's all. Just "precision poetry." It then flew away, only to return just this moment. What could it mean?

Well, in my experience, it brings to mind exactly two people: Schuon the Metaphysician and Dávila the Aphorist. There are better poets and there are more precise thinkers, but no one else in my world combines the two in such a powerful way.

I'll give you a counter-example. I'm reading a book about a subject near my heart, called Into the Mystic: The Visionary and Ecstatic Roots of 1960s Rock and Roll. Between the ages of, say, nine and twenty five, music was pretty much my religion, my savior, my point of reference. It was the only thing that made Total Sense to me -- and made sense of the world.

I'm sure we've discussed this in the past, but for me it was much more than merely "liking music." Rather, it was my gateway to ecstatic and mystical experience. In other words, daily lessons in transcendence. Given the routine experience of transcendence, the world couldn't possibly be reduced to its appearance. Flickering embers from the Other Side were scattered everywhere.

It also seems to me that I was more vulnerable than most to ecstasy -- which I mean literally, in the sense of ekstasis or "standing outside oneself." In turn, this contributed to my singular lack of ambition. I was never, ever lured by the rewards of a conventional life, because those rewards could never replace the intrinsic rewards of bare existence. For me, such a life would equate to death. (I should also emphasize that this can easily be confused with mere hedonism, another thing entirely.)

So, you can see why I was attracted to the title of this book. And while the author makes some good points, his language is so full of imprecise bloviating that it dulls the message. Frankly, this is the peril of any religious writing, especially before there is any canon or tradition within which to work.

Come to think of it, really productive religious writing must always navigate between two shores, dogma or doctrine on one side, and a kind of indistinct cloud on the other. Geometry and music. Default to the former, and language becomes dead and saturated; veer toward the other, and one is reduced to deepaking the chopra.

What is needed is... precision poetry. Here is an example of imprecise pseudo-poetry, or of Liking the Sound of One's Own Pen:

American children heard so much about this imaginary Britain that it was sometimes hard for them to tell as they grew up what were their real childhood memories and what came out of those stories. Without knowing it, their parents had initiated them into the British secret history.

Thus, when the Beatles arrived,

the American adolescents who responded to them already had a kind of interpretive framework with which to understand them. They instinctively understood that these young men, with their fascinating accents, their schoolboy hair, their air of cheeky panache, their dashing clothes, were not of the colorless present, but creatures of a story. They were envoys from the secret history....

They were a version of the protagonists of English children's stories, the ones who discovered phoenix eggs and secret gardens. The implicit idea was that childhood -- or certain things about childhood -- could become a way of life.

There may be a precise point or two buried somewhere within, but as the Aphorist might say: Prolixity is not an excess of words but a dearth of ideas. So, Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick.

Speaking of which, there is a particularly nauseating passage about the JFK assassination. If you want to be precise about it, he was killed by an unhinged leftist (but I repeat myself). End of story.

No no no. Here's the real story:

Something in the thousand days of Jack Kennedy put into the air a notion that a Kennedy America might be a place where the desires of the underground could be harmonized somehow with the desires of the country. Kennedy was, Norman Mailer said, a sheriff that the outlaws could respect. The idea of such an alliance of outlaws and sheriff was shattered by the assassination, never to recur.

Oof! I think I'm gonna hurl. It gets worse:

JFK had sometimes seemed like a presence that might graciously escort the country through the transformations that history was poised to rain down on it, to somehow manage it all -- a person who had one side of his head in the grace of the past and one side in the wild energy of the oncoming future. Now the people felt exposed to the fury of the storm.

That right there is some bad and imprecise poetry. And no, he wasn't just murdered by a leftist loon:

The consensus narrative was not able to comprehend the assassination.... The Commission's version of the story was finally not far enough from the id of America, the secret dark enflamed places where espionage, crime and reactionary violence [?!] crossed each other....

An impulse emerged, almost from the moment of the event, to see the assassination as part of a pattern, maybe an extension of the horrors coming regularly out of the South. It was American viciousness -- the spirit of the lynch mob -- seemingly carried to a sublimity of horror, the mask slipping from the awful face. A glimpse of the scale of the power that was keeping the country both placid and brutal.

Gosh. Why not just blame Trump and be done with it?

My point isn't to make you sick. I just wanted to again highlight the nauseating combination of obscure thought and bad poetry. To quote the Aphorist, Many a modern poem is obscure, not like a subtle text, but like a personal letter. As in, "What the hell is he talking about?"

Precision poetry is not only possible, it is necessary. This is because truth and beauty converge and are ultimately two sides of the same reality.

The other day it occurred to me that we really need a Bill of Responsibilities to complement our Bill of Rights. Indeed, the former must precede the latter, because only a responsible person can be given rights. Rights and responsibilities are grounded in free will, such that the free person has certain intrinsic rights only because he is presumed to be a morally responsible agent.

So, we have the "right to free speech." But this is only conceivable, let alone possible, because we have a prior responsibility to the Logos. In other words, we are obligated to speak truth. To bear false witness is not only wrong, it is cosmically irresponsible. It is to destroy the very reason why man was given speech at all. When you speak -- and write -- you have an obligation not only to be honest, but to at least try not to be ugly.

The writer arranges for syntax to return to thought the simplicity which words take away. And The fewer adjectives we waste, the more difficult it is to lie. --Dávila


julie said...

They were a version of the protagonists of English children's stories, the ones who discovered phoenix eggs and secret gardens.


Is he... is he serious? He's essentially implying that Americans liked the Beatles because John, Paul, George and Ringo were like adult versions of Christopher Robin or Tintin.

My point isn't to make you sick. I just wanted to again highlight the nauseating combination of obscure thought and bad poetry.

It's like discovering a smell so awful, you just have to share it.

This guy's writing reminds me of the sort of overwrought, overthought, essentially feminine mode where it takes a paragraph full of obscurities to say something fairly mundane, which doesn't come across because the salient information was accidentally left out.

julie said...

The other day it occurred to me that we really need a Bill of Responsibilities to complement our Bill of Rights.

Yes. I always believed the responsibilities were implied, but people seem to need these things spelled out for them.

Gagdad Bob said...

It's not about the nail!

julie said...

Ha! Yes, exactly.

Gagdad Bob said...

You could even say the "precision poetry" complementarity is male/female. Precisely. In a manner of speaking.

Rick said...

Hemingway had a couple of things to say about other writers' tendency to "fall in love with their typewriters". Ever since reading that, I never stopped noticing it.

Another goodie:

"I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket."

Gagdad Bob said...

You have to internalize the Editor Nazi.

julie said...

Yes. Probably why women are more prone to excessive writing. Everything they produce is too much like a beloved child, thus editing is murder.

Anonymous said...

A writer has two more responsibilities: to inform and entertain. But tell the truth? How would any fiction get done? What about the genres of lampoon and satire? I think there is room for some bending of facts in the service of entertainment.

The blog author invariably does a good job of informing and entertaining, I should mention.

Cheers, and happy holidays, from the Tolle Troll.

Abdulmonem Othman said...

The commandment is the first bill of responsibility, brief, short, concise and beautiful. They say only few years after the bill of right, some American started to work to legislate a bill of responsibility to build a balance between rights and duties, but it seems the attempt did not prove successful. I was wondering why all this human urge after such balance ,only to find that urge is instituted in the human soul through a divine bond and here I like to cite a verse mentioned in the Koran( verse 172 of chapter 7 ) addressed to the sons of Adam that reads as follow, and the lord took from the backs of the sons of Adam the relative atoms ( in the non-physical realm) and make them bear witness to his lordship then he enjoined saying, do not say in the other life we are oblivious of such a bond or that we were offspring of a misled ancestors, do you takes us by their mischief. It seems that in the non-physical realm the rhythmic sound is basic that is why all mystics emphasize the role of rhythmical intonation in prayer as a tool of divine epistemological invocation. Mystical experience is open to both slaves and masters and all can join in it,as it is shown by the mystic Hill concerning the African origin of the spiritual source of the spiritual element in rock and role music. Sound and motion often time are joined to enhance the ecstatic state as it is well known in Rumi schools. Ecstatic state is a trance that leaves the lower level of the self to the higher level that exposes the self to the real. All the native across the world speak about such a bill so do the perennial philosophers who start their works with a bill of duties., to move toward beautiful poetic expressions that enchants the soul.
that is why most prophets are accused of sorcery.

Van Harvey said...

"They are similar to the mind-matter dualism, which is just a conclusion masquerading as a premise."

Bwa-Ha! Exactly.

Van Harvey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van Harvey said...

"Yesterday afternoon the term popped into my head unbidden: precision poetry. That's all. Just "precision poetry." It then flew away, only to return just this moment. What could it mean?"

Precision poetry. Hmm... I like that. It makes me think of what used to form a significant portion of an Education, knowledge that was not simply known, but poetically understood. Here's one of those riddles, once used not only in teaching, but testing, thought to be from St. Aldhelm, a 7th century anglo-saxon Abbot of Malmesbury, England:

"I share with the surf one destiny
In rolling cycles when each month repeats.
As beauty in my brilliant form retreats,
So too the surges fade in cresting sea."

To understand what you know, to the extent that you could write it into riddles, whose answers could be precisely given (or by error lead you to them), in a process that could be challenging, delighted in and wondered at... is one of those ways that the people of the Dark Ages lord our barbarism over we today, who accept the ability to endure and 'correctly' answer bubble tests, to be a sign of having received an 'education'.

Rick said...

Precision poetry also seems akin to the thought that an equation must be beautiful (or mistrusted; false).


The opposite of precision poetry = any ol’ word will do.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Godwin and all Readers and Commenters of this Blog.

Dr, I understand you were a liberal,left leaning person in your young adult life. Then you made a shift towards the conservative, right leaning side of the political spectrum.

I've been made aware you were a rock bassist of some notoriety as well, and went on to gain a doctorate in psychology. It seems you had an impeccable leftist pedigree, and then something changed.

The question is, what were the causative factors for this shift? Was poetry involved? Was there an influential person?

Any others reading this may also comment, if they have made a similar change.

Thank you in advance,
R. Tritellevitz, Senior Media Analyst
New World Order, Bakersfield Regional Office

Gagdad Bob said...

Bakersfield, eh. How many times have you been to the Buck Owens museum? Or do you just have an annual pass?

Anonymous said...

Dr Godwin:

Although the chili fries are very good there, I do not have an annual pass. I fail to see how this relates to the inquiry at hand.

Perhaps you don't want to discuss your past. I understand.

Some people make a different transition, from the right to left. The factors involved in that are quite interesting.


Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, right to left reverse maturity is comparatively rare but possible (Benjamin Button Syndrome), but isn't that usually due to dementia, head injury, or personality disorder?

Anonymous said...

Often the newly minted adult leftist is in the throes of some kind of crisis. Opposition to a perceived authority figure is a common thread. Many of these converts are unhappily married people who are trying to "break out" into a new life.

There are people for whom failure in business becomes intolerable, and then they blame the capitalist system which has stymied them.

Refinery fires, or other industrial incidents, will produce a smattering of new "green" leftists among those living adjacent or affected by same.

A health crisis which causes financial hardship may turn others to the left, as they feel they are entitled not to be pauperized by disease (which we know is unrealistic).

There are more but I don't want to get tedious.

Gagdad Bob said...

Truth has one reason, while the reasons for illusion are infinite, from passion to ignorance to stupidity to cultural indoctrination and on.

julie said...

Pertinent to the post, Sarah Sanders asked the press pool today to say one thing they are thankful for before asking their questions. Apparently, they are thankful for nothing and have nobody to thank anyway.

Gagdad Bob said...

Liberalism is a mental disorder, but worse, a spiritual disorder.

Anonymous said...

Liberalism is both a mental and spiritual disorder, agreed.

Life is generally a scuffle to meet needs, and in this scuffle mental and spiritual health suffers.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, starting with oxygen, food, shelter, and moving up to needs for belonging, acceptance, and self actualization, is a very tough mountain to climb for many.

Those of us who manage to meet most or all of our needs sometimes feel "everyone ought to be able to do that, shucks, I had no problem."

Not so. Many, many of our peers struggle terribly to meet their needs. Liberalism arises for many as a misguided attempt to meet needs for feeling good about themselves, or as a misguided attempt at financial gain via handouts.

Truth, spiritual fulfillment, and all of the higher things in life (under the banner "self-actualization") are unattainable without first meeting the needs on the lower levels.

The scourge of liberalism will stay with us until our culture stabilizes into a place where the struggle becomes easier for all.

doug saxum said...

Truth is also found on the lower level of existence.
A lot of it is ugly truth, admittedly.

The struggle, that is where the person takes decisive actions with far reaching effects on the soul.

doug saxum said...

Easier doesn't mean better decisions will be made, either.

Abdulmonem Othman said...

When the divine narrative is falsified and the criteria of distinction is no longer, the moral code but the economic or political code or others the spiritual growth is halted or even perverted and the materialistic rationalistic path reins the human space. Satiation of Needs is not a must in the road of spiritual aspiration. Great sinners make great worshipers, it is where you place your attention and your intention the guide of your attention. It is not in vain religion placed faith as a starter in fixing your attitude versus the universe. Most people, think god as another human person not a light energetic field that gives and takes, rewards and punishes and can be very severe and harsh in addressing the wrong actions of his humanity and very merciful and considerate in addressing the good actions of such humanity. History is filled with stories covering the display of such paradoxical manifestations. Thinking is not a one way channel and its very dangerous to be absorbed in one channel forgetting other openings. It is time to wake up and to know that it is not right or left,liberal or conservative rich or poor,communist or capitalist or any other human fabricated labels but honesty or dishonesty, truth tellers or liars hate mongers or love builders faithful to the real or faithful to the unreal. We are all going to die and be asked about our performances. Believe or not it is a free world and as there are schools for the below there are schools for the above and all schools belong to god and the choice is left for the humans, for you.