A quick browse of the Internet recently led me to the challenge: write a deep poem.
I don’t really want to argue with the fact that some poems are deeper than others, but the notion doesn’t quite sit completely comfortably with me. It’s not poems that are deep as such, but a combination of the content and topic expressed and the thought that lies behind the poem and is instilled within the reader. Depth, to me, should not be viewed as something geological, as a certain range of topics considered more primary, more fundamental than others. Depth can instead be construed as a burrowing process, as trying to penetrate a surface, and discover the interior. And, moreover, complicate the surface by the revelation of this inside.
That said, of course, sometimes you can burrow a fair way down something and find very little change. The revelation of more-of-the-same is not always that interesting. Sometimes depth in the more clichéd sense we typically mean is the depth to which we can bury something external; what can we take down with us and rehouse? More significant for me is what we can do with the depths we have uncovered. We can open them to the field of our more shallow, open, general surroundings. We can forge connections, redistribute meaning.
And maybe sometimes depth is height. The depth of something is the amount of thought, of interconnected, integrated, accumulated concepts piled up behind one in the act of the conception and creation of the poem. The poem may only be the shallow sliver on top – the depth sits beneath it.
Or, to use a commercialised metaphor, why not state that the poem is the sealed film on the top of a Pringles tube. It can only go on once the tube has been built, and the thoughts that determine it have been assembled. And we remove the lid, and begin our own process of deconstruction, of destruction, of transformation.
Beauty exists in that instant before breakage.
Some of that is fragility. The teardrop falling to the floor attains perfection in our recognition of its imminent destruction. That split second before loss when value expands. This expansion, it could be noted, seems infinite, because it is still expanding when we interrupt it with reflection and enforce boundaries.
Similarly, beauty exists in that instant before we break it with reflection. In reflecting, our own subjectivity enters; we become ourselves in the presence of the object. As such, the object gets pushed back. In that instant before interruption, there is sight, but there is no seeing.
It is seen.
I see it.
I’m not saying there isn’t a form of beauty that emerges through, and perhaps even requires, reflection and understanding; a form the intricacies of which need to enter comprehension, to be rendered visible, and, perhaps, to be perceived with the full awareness of ourselves, and of our reactions.
But yet, I do believe there is a great deal of beauty that gets diminished when our attention is diverted back onto ourselves.
There comes in life that awful moment when you realise that no matter what you might think, what you reckon you actually believe fails the test of living itself. I spend my life embodying my totality, and the small fragments of me that I put on, each in their own particular situations, they contradict each other, and contradict the idealised, theoretical model of me. I lack the integrity of knowing that the sum of my parts is consistent. Suppose that every contradiction were to cancel to nullity, and dissolve from my existence… it scares me to consider just how little of me would be left.
What scares me more is that this part of me, the part that is me realising – as in recognising – my own inconsistencies and my ideal of integral coherence, this part of me is only a part. And it is a part that fails the test of actuality. My actions, me realising – as in making real – my own self, excludes all these ideals. What goals do I really possess for my life? To what motivations, values, principles can I genuinely lay claim? Or, on the other hand, if I take every part of me as validly and necessarily an integral part of my identity, what value can I really assign to such values?
The power balance in the relationship summoned by gratitude is an interesting one. The traditional view is that the grateful person is the lower of the power relationship. The relation is one tainted and defined to some extent by dependency. The grateful party bears the awareness that their present state has been facilitated by the actions of the other.
However, the position of being grateful is that with a more subtle power balance. To bear gratitude is to acknowledge one’s own power, for gratitude requires an act from the other for one’s benefit that exceeds the acts of standard interaction. One is grateful because one’s interests have been served. The other thus, to whatever extent, retains the mark of subordination.
Is it somewhat audacious to ask for comprehension not just attention? Or is the second on its own worse?
‘Look, Mum! Mum… Mum… look, Mum. MUM!’ Sometimes it’s hard to shake the feeling that as my blog posts drip into the public feed I may as well be a small child tugging on your coat demanding just that split second of your attention.
But on the other hand, I’m after some sort of conversation, however stilted (and perhaps Beckettian), not an audience. And for that what’s desired is comprehension. Do you follow this line of thought? Does it make sense, can you see where it’s going, what I’m trying to say? Unless you follow a message to its meaning, you can’t really respond, and the statistics that register a dated interest, or a brief flicker of your gaze, or a misjudged mouse click may as well be that meaningless.
So in that sense, do you follow me?
It’s an interesting word though. Comprehension should never be enough for agreement or adherence. It’s not like I’m uttering a priori truths here, and hopefully nothing so tautological as to be trivial. So I’m not after followers. We should only ever fall behind something we’ve already seen; our agreement should never precede understanding, and we should be wary of looking for the element to ‘like’ rather than the elements to contemplate further, and possibly even challenge.
I’m following many of you, but to follow you is not to sit behind you, and trail along in your wake. Not unless you genuinely see your work as casting backwards.
To follow is to sit before something, in front of it. It is to place yourself so that it can be presented to you. I look in my reader at the people and the topics I’ve chosen to follow so far, and in making that choice to follow I’m creating windows in my existence that present a view of what you’re thinking or feeling or considering. Observation is always partial, and preconditioned, and typically selective at some level or other. In following you I’m not tagging along at your heels, but creating a way for you to reach me. It’s an act of permitting your activity, your agency, to achieve another goal or endpoint. But I’d like it still to remain an active thing on my part too, not merely passive. If I like something, or comment on something, it’s because I’ve read it, and I’ve let it in, and I’ve produced my own response to it.
And if so, in what sense?
It seems as if there might be simple enough ways to be controversial.
One could say something on a topic with emotions but no right answer. Alternatively, one can speak into a debate where the right answer bears too much emotion to be palatable.
(Or, of course, one can use bad grammar.)
These options aren’t meant to be exhaustive. It just seems as if sometimes what we might mean by ’emotion’ is quite an unstable, and thus destabilising, concept. Try and define what we mean by emotion and we reduce it down to trivialities. It’s a form of sensation. It’s a form of investment. It’s supposedly, on some accounts, meant to be something we can abstract from facts, from objective statements, from truth. But every statement we make, even if just to the extent that we have made it, selected it, that it originates from a fundamentally emotional creature, is emotionally invested. And every statement has emotive power because it is received by similarly emotionally-capable creatures. Working out the power of controversy is working out when we want emotion, why some things stir it up in us, and how we can interpret our own investment in something. Emotion is powerful, and its revelatory. It’s essential to understanding something’s importance. But we also need to know where we want to try and place the limits. I personally think in many cases they are arbitrary. If emotion bars the view of rationality and reason, there’s a danger that doesn’t always exist if it accompanies them. Yet it’s equally important to know when rationality bars the view of emotion behind it. And as said, even talking like this imposes a dualism on two things that are ultimately interconnected at potentially deep levels of their structure. Sometimes there are no solutions, just a point for awareness.