This morning, I was reading an excerpt from Darwin’s journals (or was it his autobiography? I cannot recall). He discussed his lost love of poetry and Shakespeare, how glad such things used to make him, and he lamented that such things now bored him immensely. His mind seemed to have become only a machine for reviewing large quantities of facts and pulling from them a general theory. He said something along the lines of this making him sad and, very likely, being an unhealthy thing for the mind too. This implied, to me, a sort of descent into a sort of degeneracy, though perhaps that says more about my mind than about his.
I don’t have the book with me now, or else I would be more precise. Please forgive my lack of references.
Later that morning, I was heading in to Starbucks to purchase my daily dose of what Terrence McKenna labeled the shamanic drug of business. Outside, a young homeless man (scraggly beard, long brown hair, stained clothes, my age) was laying on the ground, shoes at his side, kicking his sock-clad feet in the air and babbling to himself. On my way out I handed him a few coins. I am embarrassed to admit I unable to look at him so until then; t felt safer to do so upon leaving than it did upon entering.
When I handed him the coins, he looked up at me, very excited, and started talking to me. I stood and listened a bit. My memory recorded it as something like “reflexive, recurrence, becoming, unfolding, enfolding, turning, triangular, dyslexic!” and then a bit about a melted glass lens refracting perfectly.
This is, I feel, a true enough recounting of his words, though, again, I feel perhaps a bit too much of myself in the words chosen and their arrangement.
He seemed to be both figuring out his theories and telling them to me at the same time, and appeared to be very happy to be doing so. His eyes were very kind, but (unless it was only in my imagination) there was no real connection in them. And yet, something in me recognized myself in him, and in knew I had tasted the pleasure he found in his babbling.
Luckily for me I have some social connections, a job, and a blog, so I am safe for now. I believe I may rightly consider this blog my padded cell, though, happily for me, it remains unlocked. Or perhaps it’s better said that it is locked and only I have the key, and that my cell has a window in it as wide as the world. In my case, such a window can also serve as a ventilation unit. If memory serves, Darwin come from money, and while money does not ventilate by itself, it can be used create experiences that ventilate well enough. That man outside of Starbucks had no means of ventilation.
So, yes, it does seem that I am safe, for now. But that tendency that Darwin mentioned, that analysis of fact and creation of theory, is a pleasurable, addicting activity, and one can run heedlessly into many dangers pursuing it. While philosophy is dry science, poetry is wet magic. Wet lubricates dry, grease in the axle hole making the ride smooth, saving us from the creation of friction. No friction, no fumes. No fumes, no need for ventilation.
Wait. No. Strike that.
Philosophy is language created out for knowledge, from clarity.
Poetry is language created out of emotion, from feeling.
To remain a poet philosopher, you must find a way to love both the poetry and the philosophy. Otherwise, you may head past the tipping point and over into your doom. I can only pray that my appreciation of, and skill with, these things always and ever increase. And that this may continue for the greater social good only, and my own good besides.
I have been trying to read poetry daily, lately. This how I found the Darwin excerpt, in fact. It’s in The Rag And Bone Shop of the Heart.