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.
- (archaic) A longing or desire
- A natural tendency or affinity
Although, as with previous entries, initially encountered in Foyle’s Further Philavery, the above definition is taken from the OED which, unlike that book, lists both meanings.
What is interesting is the implicit link established between longing and desire and natural, potentially biological or innate, tendencies, inclinations and needs. We are capable of wanting things on a less physical, biological level. I can desire to do well on a certain assignment; I can fervently hope the postman arrives with my recorded delivery package before I need to leave the house. But the word ‘longing’ carries, at least to me, something more fundamentally physical. It would be misleading to say that the desire simply emerges from the biological needs and drives of our personal mechanism, but we feel it manifest itself in a physical presence, deeply entrenched in our fundamentally embodied existence.
That said, I wouldn’t claim to be particularly afflicted by such desires all that often. Bar certain spots of turmoil, for the most part my desires are typically higher order, more rational, or less pressing. And sometimes that’s rather annoying when it comes to decision-making. It seems, so often, to be easier to know what I do not want, either that which stirs up no bodily response, or to which my body acts in repulsion, or to know what rationally I recognise as undesirable or unlikely to be beneficial. Yet what threatens is a potentially unending process of elimination, in most cases beginning prior to even knowing all the options to consider.
If indeed there is any moral to all this, I’m willing to let you draw it for yourselves. For me, what is reaffirmed is the complexity of the self, our inability to wholly detach rationality from physicality, as the threads of these elements cross across each other and sustain and support each other in the complex fabric of our desires, personalities and motivations. Sometimes the challenge is working out which voices, which currents in ourselves, we should listen to and take as starting points for action. However, for me the challenge may also be simply remembering to be grateful for the times when it’s so clear, so indisputable, what I want, that even if I choose not to pursue it, I get one of my clearer insights into myself in that single, enmeshed, respect.
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.
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.