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Grasping the Whole
Poetry in Thought
Of the two, i.e., philosophy and poetry, which one is the more practical discipline, better suited to grasping the system of the world? Both depend on the muse smiling upon your fortune; one the muse of reason and the other the muse of language and both excel in compressions of thought, which is why the sutra format works for both, and even today, the use of symbolic reasoning in philosophy is a form of poetic assistance.
While poets and philosophers sat next to kings, as sources of wisdom and entertainment, poetry has vanished from the halls of decision. Putin and Obama have their favorite philosophers who informs and legitimizes their worldviews, but neither would think of consulting a poet for the same purpose.
Plato banishment of poetry from the academy is almost complete, but that’s our loss, for we should be alert to the importance of poetic modes and echoes in the life of thought - poetry helps us grasp the whole.
Every once in a while an idea intrudes upon our consciousness and overwhelms us with its importance. I call such ideas ‘openings.’ The ancients must have felt so with their encounter with ‘Brahman’ or ‘God,’ a transcendent being or principle whose discovery feels like nirvana or revelation. More recently, we may feel that ‘Capital’ has that quality, a principle that regulates all our lives, from birth to death. And ‘machine’ with its aura of predictable, repeatable force. These openings are poetic, for no single phenomenon reveals the full extent of capital’s influence or divine creation.
We are at the cusp of another opening. It goes by a few related names: ‘planet,’ ‘earth,’ ‘bhumi….’
It’s increasingly clear that nothing makes sense in human affairs except in the light of the planet, which is no longer an infinite resource that’s available for us to exploit or merely the backdrop against which we live our lives. The planet is an agent whose whims will be embedded in our calculations, just as we pay attention to the stock market today. The planet is no distant object that reveals itself as if it were a distant star, for it’s simultaneously our inner nature, an untameable force and our only destiny.
If I am being deliberately animistic, it’s because the planet overflows any mechanical grid we might want to impose on it.
How do we hold the planet in thought? How can poetic reason caution us away from ‘capturing’ the earth?