Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Liberated Objectivity

"After one has abandoned belief in god," says Wallace Stevens in his Opus Posthumous, "poetry is that essence which takes its place as life's redemption."

As I read through some old essays, I'm reminded that, yes, I've always been gnawing the same old bones. My drawn-out journey through Academia has so far proven to afford me with only one thing: the capacity to better state the same old questions, and then only slightly better. The difference lies now mostly in my consciousness of the particular words I'm choosing, and their meanings; important, yes, but as one of the great rhetoricians put it (I forget whether it was Cicero or Quintillian) great oratory strives for the persuasiveness and natural eloquence of the layman consumed by virtuous passion. Not to say I was particularly virtuous, but I certainly was passionate, and it allowed for a kind of confident lyricism.

And now that I have this (slightly) improved perspective on history, in that I've seen from many perspectives, having had my naivete made painfully obvious to me, and having asked for the bread of knowledge, and having received instead the burden of understanding the limits of language, I hardly want to speak at all. I want to be silent, and at the same time to have it spoken; to have all of it gathered up, this cloud of meaning risen around the academic parade that has passed by me in my few years of study, and have it condensed down to the smallness of the feeling inside my gut. Take away the parade, leave the smoke. Let me ramble on melodramatically. Let me not speak.

If there is redemption in poetry, then there is redemption, and it is not in poetry. If there is redemption in God, then there is redemption, and it is not in "God" -- the picture you might hold of "Him," whom you picture. And you who would like redemption to have no face, or to have god's face be the face of your feeling, whatever it will allow -- all of you who aren't nihilists, who feel the meaning of their life -- or if not their life, then of a particular moment -- who feel part of a world, who believe their senses -- you must know for yourself already that redemption is there, that meaning is there, and you can't undo it with your words, and you can't make it, either, however you might try -- because upon speaking, you locate yourself in a kosmos -- you show a perspective. That there is perspective. You make known your belief in objects, regardless of how or if you believe it is, any of it, out there.

There is an occurence in rhetoric, in creative speech of any kind, that unlocks this sense of ourselves in the world -- a sense of liberated objectivity. A moment of transcendence out of the lonely confines of the subject, and into epiphany -- a visceral realization of the world beyond our viscera. And it feels the way running for a glimpse of sunset feels: jogging up the hill, through shady residential streets but seeing on the tips of the tallest trees that last golden light, and knowing what will be there when you reach the crest. And you do, and all the climbing, all the foreshadowing, every glimpse of light and wash of shade, is fulfilled, and summed-up in the sunset vista.

It's philosophy happening to us, this epiphany. It's a religious reaffirmation of our primary beliefs, which seem to me to be enough. All else is humble experimentation, and never more.

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