Monday, August 20, 2007

Mark Twain on War/Poet&Reader/What I Don't Know

(P1) Philosophical

What I Don't Know

Once in awhile, I attempt to formulate for myself where I am at with belief. I thought I'd share this recent "epiphany" with you:

I really don't know or understand anything. When I look at the sky and then push through it to the void or the greater universe where time has no dominion and realize that this might only be the beginning or portal to whatever's beyond that, I realize how fully I don't know. I accept the not knowing. I appreciate the mystery. The nudge that comes from what I, from childhood on, was told is the explanation, intrudes on the mystery. Later I was reminded "Pride goeth before the fall" but "pride" was so often defined in terms of having the temerity to question what we had been given in the way of explanation of the mystery for which no man or woman has the "answer." Primitive cultures attempted to name or put a face on the mystery. All mythology including religion employs story forms for the same purpose. No one knows except the individual lying on a chair swing swinging with the sun playing off the trees and off his ears under a sky too close. Does mystery denote complexity or does mystery simply be? No one I've met or read knows. Many think they know, and I suppose that may also be knowing. I too know what I know which is that I don't know very much other than that I'm content not to know very much, and this lack of knowledge is at odds with everything I've been told by all those who know as much or less than I.

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(P2) Poetical

The Poet and His Reader

"The transaction that we call the experience of poetry always takes place between one being and another. The energy circulates from privacy to privacy. Far flung though they may be in space and time, the poet and his reader are, for the duration of the experience, adjacent souls with permeable boundaries. Language can render the inward experience so persuasively that the space/time axis yields. Poetry has no larger 'public function' — it's limits are set. Poetry readings may be good advertising but they can't alter the monogamous character of the real event. In poetry, as in love, two is company, three is always a crowd."

from Sven Birkerts in his essay "The Poet In An Age Of Distraction"

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(P3) Political

Those Who Always Shout For War

from Mark Twain in The Mysterious Stranger

"The loud littler handful...as usual...will shout for the war. The great...big...dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war...and will say indignantly...it is unjust and dishonorable...there is no necessity for it...

"The the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen...and at first will have a hearing...but it will not last long. The others will outshout them...and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity...Before long...you will see this curious thing...the speakers stoned from the platform...and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men...

"Next...the statesmen will invent cheap lies...putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked...and every man will be glad of these conscience soothing falsities...and will diligently study them...and refuse to examine any refutations of them...and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just...and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

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9 comments:

Arlene Mandell said...

Sam Clemens is certainly looking down upon us.

Arlene Mandell said...

Sam Clemens is surely looking down at us, probably reading The New York Times, and shaking his head.

Duncan said...

Old Sam is also saying, "I told you so."

As for your epiphany, Ed, I can relate that when I had one of mine (none of mine were very spectacular events)I "awakened" to the realization (for me factual enough that I don't look anymore)that there is no mystery to solve.

I just accept that this is IT. There is nothing else to look for, or find, or discover, or solve, or explain. And, if you find that you are happier and more at ease with yourself when you do and say kind things, then you've found all you will ever find or need to find.

Michael Matthews said...

Hi Ed, just comments on: "There is no mystery to solve." One that we can solve is no mystery. There is mystery, we "know" that. But what it is, in the universe, yikes, very hard to "know". We'd have to traverse infinite space just to get a glimpse. No way! So we "just" a glimpse at the whole, dang, Infinite Mystery in the Universe. Cool, enjoy the viewing! MM

Anonymous said...

"faith is letting go
and belief is holding on"
i believe-
confusing to do both
at the same time.

--ray

Ed of Nice said...

Eddie it is time again to repeat my mantra:

I be,
What I be,
For being.

Thank you for your stream of poetic consciousness.

I am amazed by all there is within this void of my own being.

I believe that my first memory was of existing within a void of black, white and grey that seemed like some form of static. Maybe as an infant I was left in front of an old black and white television set (probably a Philco brand) sometime during 1949 in an apartment on Cole Street in the Haight Ashbury District of San Francisco. The TV was tuned to a station off the air at the time of my exposure. - OR - maybe I was in a stage of fetal development inside my Mother's womb. Was this possible? Maybe it was during the car wreck that almost killed my Mother and I when my drunken father hit a lamp post on Market Street in San Francisco just a few weeks before I was to be born. I add this information because years later my Mother told me of this event just a few weeks before my birth. My Mother thought it might have been registered as a memory for the both of us. Was this information created in response to the shock and fear experienced of our possible joint death in the moments as she saw a street light post pierce the front windshield of the car my father drove puncturing the front seat just inches away from my Mother's pregnant belly as she sat in between her husband, my father and the driver of the car and a friend that owned the car. My Mother recalled experiencing a jolt sensing her own mortality in those moments could end through my father's actions. I just a fetus that almost was aborted just weeks before my birth.

Did I feel something during that wreck? The consequence of nerve cells being rammed together, connecting into a unique pattern to form my first memory? Possibly the beginnings of my consciousness as a being?

I recall that as a child I had a recurring dream. Later in life I classified these multiple dreams as a nightmares. I wasn't intelligent enough to know how to interpret what was registering in my brain (or possibly the intellect formed was in my stomach or bowels) at my young age how could I know. What was it all about? I classify these experiences as some of my first dreams that I now recall. The dreams starred myself as a character actor, shivering in a large black soupy-like water. I was surrounded by seals. Joining me in this black soup were snow white baby seals with large black eyes out of a Keane painting. The black soup did not stain me or the seals. The seals constantly yelped crying out for something. Was I a seal like them? I think not. I was different but never saw my own image. As I considered my surroundings further I wondered if the void I was in was a space within a ship. A sinking ship, I sensed. I was inside the hull of an old oak sailing ship that was sinking with me and all those seals yelping in the black water, in a darkness that gave off a shimmering glow across the surface of the surface of the water. It seemed the water was getting higher in the compartment we were located. I could tell because the black void above me seemed to be coming closer. I wondered if we (the seals and I) were facing something ominous, an unknown. I had a vague unformed feeling of knowing something negative was next. Just what was next? I felt threatened by a yet unknown of the next moment. Then I would awake, a child sleeping in a room away from his Mother. I thought of this factor later as an adult so I am not sure it means anything more than an innate sense I was supposed to find some meaning from a past stream of abstract consciousness.

I think I may have always felt the company of guardians of some kind I could not see but felt safety and comfort because they were present, somewhere within the same dimensions I exist. All of this happened to me at a very young age. It seemed that it happened just before or after my birth. But, is not this impossible given our understanding of human development of consciousness.
Twain must have considered whether or not he felt threatened in some way as he constructed his insights. As for me I just be for being.

Eddie I admit, I should have tolf you earlier. I just got out of the hospital for another infection in my left leg. It seems to be under control. I have this adversity to deal with this week and probably next week. So it may seem my wandering rambling writing seems to prove my brains may be scrambled like eggs cooked medium well done, as usual. I am by nature a lazy thinker.

I swear I have not been smoking any funny weeds lately. I am just rambling along in my usual unfocused stream of thought. As usual, I am taking life as it takes me.

Recently a cousin passed away after fighting a number of battles with brain cancer during the past ten years. Last week he lost his battle to remain among the living. Family and friends are trying to understand it all. There is no way to understand it if as a human being I feel some kind of a connection to life and what comes afterwards? The answer is SOMETHING no matter what your beliefs. SOMETHING continues. our mortality keeps messing with our lives. To many this is distressing to others it is the way of nature. Its all physics in the final analysis.
Hope you and your readers have a wonderful 24 hours.

Edward Coletti said...

Dear E. From Nice,

Scrambled or not, eggs are where it all begins. Thank you for your terrific images. The image(ination) is where all creation begins.

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George J. said...

Oh how things have changed since Twain's day. Why, we no longer look at self deception as grotesque, but patriotic.