Monday Poem-Marianne Moore

To A Steamroller

The illustration
is nothing to you without the application.
   You lack half wit. You crush all the particles down
      into close conformity, and then walk back and forth
         on them.

Sparkling chips of rock
are crushed down to the level of the parent block.
   Were not ‘impersonal judgment in aesthetic
      matters, a metaphysical impossibility,’ you

might fairly achieve
It. As for butterflies, I can hardly conceive
   of one’s attending upon you, but to question
      the congruence of the complement is vain, if it exists.

Marianne Moore (click through for a discussion of Moore’s work and style)

A Take On Neo-Romanticism-Do You Agree?

3.

You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.

Has there been a better poet writing in English in the past 150 years?   Probably not.

The depth of commitment to his metaphysical vision and the breadth of that vision is remarkable.   Look at the rhyme and meter!  Sinful.

Romantic Urbanism seems to, well, inspire Romantic conceptions of a place.

Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical.

For my piece, seeking poetic meaning, through the written and spoken word, moves many hearts and minds most deeply. Within such mediated and heightened, experiences of reality, many people forget their own senses and reason. A creative genius has created a work (a poem, a cathedral, your favorite song) where the creator’s senses and reason has become yours. You’re a bit like a walker on the forest floor; the creative genius the canopy overhead, filtering the sunlight to this tree and that. One need only look to revelation and myth, religious and ideological, to understand how powerful such works of the imagination are, and how such impulses within us, can be.

In the Romantic Age, this was channeled in specific directions.

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth’s Lake District ain’t necessarily the cloud in front of you. Those clouds have come and gone. You are not really a cloud (though for a moment maybe you were, within the mind’s eye, the cloud and the looker and the poet, while reading the poem).

Who’s more likely to be Romantically inspired? Well, some temperaments more than others, I’m guessing. All of us to some extent, however, in the modern world. I think people whose education has come through modern channels are more likely.

In my experience, sometimes it’s the rationalist, the data scientist, or the physicist, when the brain-draining day’s work is done, who becomes most inspired to identify with modern, collectivist and Romanticized thought. These folks are often among the brightest, and the ones working with hardest data, and the most rigorous standards of getting at the truth. But, such folks are human, after all. Often, they want comforting fictions over harsh truths. Ideal utopias dot the horizon. Some rationalists can also be painfully naive when it comes to the motives others have in a shared enterprise (a bureaucracy, a political coalition etc).

Reality, the reality of privation, violence and criminality are still with us. Some people choose violence for dominance and leverage over others. Some people develop skills which involve harming you. Many people in rough neighborhoods are happy to get over on you, and that’s about it. Many people in rough neighborhoods choose not to live this way and cultivate and strive to keep what’s good alive, moving forwards.

Incentives matter.

Some very educated people, with good backgrounds, can be absolute assholes, and even dangerously criminal. This shouldn’t come as entirely surprising. Higher intelligence is certainly no guarantee of character.

‘Poverty’ has become a kind of big, conceptual bowl into which the imaginings of a post-Christian, humanistic, ethic have gathered. Some people have turned these ideas into what I regard as a rather idealistic (and ideological) platform, actualizing such ideas through emergent thought.

I suppose we’ll see.

On that note:

I remain skeptical of much environmental thinking, primarily in the realms of politics, law and ad hoc ethics. Many people here aren’t actually doing science. Many such knowledge and truth claims are serving various masters. Such ideas have become the glue holding many coalitions of humanists, anti-humanists, idealists and ideologues together, mediating the natural worlds and those of (M)an.

On this site, see:

Slight Update & Repost-Hipster Romanticism? From The Atlantic Photo: ‘Adventures Of A Serial Trespasser’

Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism

Some Thursday Songs-Metal, Myth, American Romanticism And The Civil War

Eric Kaufmann (podcast) samples some younger, more liberal people on their relation to many American traditions.

The new Equality movements are having effects, and many folks are coalescing around new moral lights, sometimes religiously.

The rule of law, due process, freedom of speech and many duties our Republic requires are viewed much more skeptically.

As posted:

Modernism goes to the movies.

Some pictures at the link.

There’s mention of the Mt. Rushmore house at the end of North By Northwest. I suspect some among us have wanted to live in a modernist lair.

From an article in Der Spiegel on the Bauhaus, where modernism got its start:

‘The real feat achieved by Gropius and his cohorts was to have recognized and exposed the sociopolitical and moral power of architecture and design. They wanted to exert “effective influence” on “general conditions,” fashion a more just world and turn all of this into a “vital concern of the entire people.”‘

Eric Gibson & James Panero discuss sculpture in exile & culture under siege.

From the public square to the Natural World:

Mike Shellenberger on his new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.

As previously posted, ‘Do Children Cause Global Warming?

Bjorn Lomborg:

‘Across all cultures, raising a child is considered one of the most rewarding things a person can do. Yet a chorus of campaigners, scientists, and journalists suggest that everyone should think twice before procreating.’

As I see things, many in the West are replacing belief in a deeper substrate of religious doctrines with belief in a substrate of secular humanist ideals and various flavors of political idealism.

There’s a kind of Neo-Romanticism going on, including religious impulses channeled through secular beliefs and in anti-capital, anti-technology and anti-human directions.

OUT:  Old kooks

IN: New kooks

I’d like to remind folks that Peace Pavilion West, an Eco-Romantic Human Collective Going Back To Nature and Forward Towards Progress, is still accepting applications.

-Would you like to live in your OWN ecopodment as part of a living, working Community?

-Does 1,200 calories of guaranteed bug-paste and 8 glasses of fresh spring water a day sound good to you?

-Close your eyes: The day’s field labor is done. Honest sweat and natural musk mix with memory. Your mind, body and soul begin to rise towards the Cosmos, as each Community member joins hands, chanting Earthsong at dusk

True story:  I was tutoring a girl in Seattle, and she was in the arts.  Artists are often alone, more vulnerable, and she suddenly opened up about Climate Change.

This was one of the primary lenses through which she viewed the world, and it was predicting imminent disaster.  Doom and gloom.  The End Of The World Is Nigh.  Her teachers and peers were eye deep in this acopalyptic thinking, and such ideas were clearly amplifying her anxiety.

I shared some of my interest in the Natural world, animals and experiences.  We looked up some facts and discussed them for a bit.  I told a bad joke or two.  After both relaxing somewhat, I tried to suggest getting out a bit more and mixing it up.  You got this.

Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening…there are other sources rather than Hobbes: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Urbanists love to hate Joel Kotkin, as he has offered them much in the way of criticism. At the New Urbanist website, I found the following quote:

“Only when humans are again permitted to build authentic urbanism — those cities, towns, and villages that nurture us by their comforts and delights — will we cease the despoiling of Nature by escaping to sprawl.”

The Flow Of Man & Nature In American Verse: Three Sunday Poems-Wendell Berry, T.S. Eliot & William Carlos Williams

The Porch over the River

In the dusk of the river, the wind
gone, the trees grow still–
the beautiful poise of lightness,
the heavy world pushing toward it.

Beyond, on the face of the water,
lies the reflection of another tree,
inverted, pulsing with the short strokes
of waves the wind has stopped driving.

In a time when men no longer
can imagine the lives of their sons
this is still the world–
the world of my time, the grind

of engines marking the country
like an audible map, the high dark
marked by the flight of men,
lights stranger than stars.

The phoebes cross and re-cross
the openings, alert
for what may still be earned
from the light. The whippoorwills

begin, and the frogs. And the dark
falls, again, as it must.
The look of the world withdraws
into the vein of memory.

The mirrored tree, darkening, stirs
with the water’s inward life. What has
made it so? –a quietness in it
no question can be asked in.

Wendell Berry

THE DRY SALVAGES
(No. 3 of ‘Four Quartets’)

I

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.

T.S. Eliot

Paterson
(Book 1)

“Paterson lies in the valley under the Passaic Falls
its spent waters forming the outline of his back. He
lies on his right side, head near the thunder
of the waters filling his dreams! Eternally asleep,
his dreams walk about the city where he persists
incognito. Butterflies settle on his stone ear.
Immortal he neither moves nor rouses and is seldom
seen, though he breathes and the subtleties of his machinations
drawing their substance from the noise of the pouring river
animate a thousand automations. Who because they
neither know their sources nor the sills of their
disappointments walk outside their bodies aimlessly
for the most part,
locked and forgot in their desires-unroused.

William Carlos Williams

Some Free Thoughts On Disaffected Liberals, Media and Twitter

For some disaffected liberals, weaning one’s Self from increasingly biased outlets can be liberating. There are diminishing returns within the ‘activist’ and ‘liberationist’ doctrines, constantly centering activist concerns as virtuous and the latest sexual/moral/political liberation as sacred. Sooner or later, within the ‘-Ism’ soup, individuals realize THEIR speech, property, and legal rights can become threatened.

Disagree at your own peril.

We all depend, to some extent, on existing institutions for our freedoms. Freedoms come with responsibilities.

Liberalism requires proper philosophical and moral grounding to claim authority, while the knowledge claims of the sciences/social sciences/secular idealists continually run aground (as all authority does, as we all do) upon human nature and reality. Rationalists can’t plan everything and don’t know everything. The social sciences don’t describe everything and can’t merely be minted into public policy by self-appointed gatekeepers. Liberal idealists keep getting mugged from their Left within the nihilist, postmodern Fog Of The Self.

In terms of media, people want substance, reasonable fact-checking, and a place to mostly suspend disbelief while reinforcing existing belief. Peter Boghossian might be filling some small bit of that need.

Twitter as part of the Public Square: Back when I got a liberal arts education, I concluded something similar: The old guard had pedagogy and structure younger people, for the most part, had trouble accessing. There were systemic issues within the epistemology of a liberal arts education, while fewer and fewer people were actively reading. I figured the same, deeper postmodern philosophical debate would just occur on a delay for publications like The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and NPR, and within our institutions (law/politics/media).

It was here long before me.

If the institutions are having systemic issues, then the outlets reporting on them, and leaning upon older technologies, are having systemic issues as well.

I’d have to say I agree with about 90% of the below, because speech means supporting the people you don’t like, and whom you think are dangerous:

Related On This Site:

Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

-Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

-Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

– Various Products Of Radical Reason And Reactions To Them- John Gray At The New Statesman

Repost-Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

One of the more solid moral foundations for why you should be liberal still comes from J.S. Mill:

“The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals. They preferred endeavoring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally. The only case in which the higher ground has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief:…”

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007), 8-9.

Watch out for the assumption of rational and knowable ends, and the one-stop-shop of modern doctrines promising radical liberation. All that’s left is to implement such knowledge into systems that will lead all men to some point outside of themselves.: -The Englightenment/Romantic tension…the horror of rationalist systems which claimed knowledge of man’s ends, but also a defense of both positive and negative liberties-Appeasement Won’t Do-Via A Reader, ‘Michael Ignatieff Interview With Isaiah Berlin’…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Three Poems On Distance & Loss

For one who didn’t care much for poetry:

Separation

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color

W.S. Merwin

For another who handles the losses with grace and courage:

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

For a special friend, you know who you are.

Flying Over The Nebraska Of My Life

So much of our lives dissolves.
What did I do the day before
I met you? You remember
what I was wearing that holiday.
What did I wear the next morning?
What did I write the day my mother died?

I fly at night over the plains.
There is a cluster of lights,
a starfish shape glittering. Then
darkness and darkness.
Then another clump bearing
long daisy petals of roadway.

Then nothing again. How much
of my living has fled like water
into sand. The sand is not
even damp to the hand.
Tears and wine and sparkling
water all vanish the same.

I know looking out the plane’s
dirty window that there are houses,
barns, roads, trees, stores
distinct in that darkness I once
drove through. I knew them and will
never know them again.

The plane is flying from lighted
place to lighted place, but
our arc is from the dark into
brightness then back into darkness.
I want to possess my own life like a
necklace, pearl by pearl of light.

Marge Piercy

Repost-Via The New Criterion: ‘The Intolerable Dream’-Don Quixote, The Lone Genius & Bathing Within The Warm Bath Of The (S)elf

Full piece here.

Of some interest:

‘Having read so many chivalric epics that his brains have “dried up,” the hero decides that he has been called to revive chivalry and restore the Golden Age in this Age of Iron. But as the book proceeded, Cervantes realized that he had hit on something much more profound than a simple parody. The story kept raising ultimate questions about faith, belief, evidence, and utopian ideals. When do we need caution and when risk? Should we seek to transform reality or the way we perceive it? Do good intentions or good results define moral actions? And what is the proper role of literature itself?’

Tilting at Windmills, a reading group of Don Quixote done back in 2007.

On Nabokov’s reading of Don Quixote, via a NY Times article:

What Nabokov’s eyes kept seeing as he prepared his lectures was the accurately perceived fact that the book elicits cruel laughter. Cervantes’ old man who had read himself into insanity and his smelly squire were created to be the butt of mockery. Quite early, readers and critics began to sidestep this Spanish fun and to interpret that story as another kind of satire: one in which an essentially sane, humane soul in a crass and unromantic world can only appear as insane.

If you have any good links, or links to reviews, please pass them along…

My two cents: I’m currently thinking that the modern ‘Well of The Self’ has deep roots within Romanticism, and the idea that the artistic genius alone must make sense of the world. This lone genius will Return to Nature as cradle, delivering man or (M)an back to himself, and back to his most basic experiences, hopes and a sense of wonder (once with a Christian, now often within a modern, transmogrified metaphysic).

The Romantic genius, to some extent, must turn against the city, industry and technological change, going back to the countryside. The (M)odern Man, a la Eliot, must turn back to the city, man’s industry, and technological change and remake the world anew, so that we may carry our souls forward. The (P)ostmodern man must create entire worlds and meaning for himself, isolated and alienated from all traditions and other people, left struggling against the void.

There are options, of course, and nihilism is clearly one.

If true, one can easily extrapolate from such a vision towards how we’ve ended up not only with individualism, but radical individualism, and a constant negotiation left up to each individual between all existing institutions of authority and moral/immoral legitimacy.

I’m seeing a lot of basic individual loneliness, desperation for group membership, meaning, and search for some kind of relationship between (N)ature and the (S)elf through others and through political tribalism.

This also can lead to the clear and present unstabilizing political dangers of anarchy, radical liberation, and doctrinal certainty forming beneath the reasonableness found within the high, liberal doctrines of Enlightenment (R)eason and (M)an. The social activists and ‘wokists’ on the scene are nothing if not zealous about their ideas. The ‘-Ismologists’ keep promising some kind of ideal world, which always seems to fail in fully arriving (and this failure always seems to be someone else’s fault).

Perhaps many people are inflating politics and the study of politics, the study of people in groups (sociology), and the study of our interior lives (psychology) to idealistic and almost mythic proportions, coming to lean upon these epistemologies, and politics itself, with hopes I do not necessarily share.

It wasn’t so long ago that all sins were to be reconciled with a loving God; a confession in the booth. I’m seeing many of the same human desires, hopes and beliefs now directed at therapists, comedians, politicians and artists, sometimes able to bear significant weight, often unable to do so.

Ah well, Dear Reader.

There’s a lot of wisdom in reading Don Quixote.

Have I convinced you of any of this?

Here’s a stanza from ‘Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird‘ by Wallace Stevens, transitioning from Romanticism to Modernism, wrestling with faith and more modern doubt, staying the course with good Dutch-German insurance-executive sobriety and also lasting late in the night with passionately abstract poetic imaginings:

VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

Also:

The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully.

Seattle Photo & A Poem By Donald Justice

Men At Forty

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of the father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

Donald Justice

Saturday Poem-W.B. Yeats

When You Are Old

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

WIlliam Butler Yeats

Repost-Accounting For The Individual Within Ideas-More Of This, Please

From Robert Wokler’s ‘Isaiah Berlin’s Englightenment And Counter-Enlightenment

‘Berlin’s coinage of 1973 is not even the first minting of the expression in English, since the term ‘Counter-Enlightenment’ appears fifteen years earlier in William Barrett’s Irrantional Man, where he states, not without some justice, that ‘Existentialism is the counter-Enlightenment come at last to philosophical expression’.

Such antipodal movement between reason enthroned and some of anti-reason’s shrines is likely going to keep influencing all of our lives for some time.

Here’s a quote from Kelley Ross, highlighting some of the clear dead-ends and unworkable ideologies that have come out of the Enlightenment, and which have crushed individuals underfoot but still generate loyal sympathies and continue living on in various forms, finding some traction in the modern/postmodern malaise:

‘In addition to these legal and institutional usurpations of liberty, the attacks on individualism itself by socialism and communism have continued under the guise of “communitarianism,” and trendy thinkers now like to say that only as much freedom as “possible” should be allowed given the fundamental priority of the state, of “society as a collective unit” (they know that they will sound like Nazis if they start talking about “the state,” so they say “society” instead). It is not, indeed, that freedom must never be abridged, but it is a very different matter to see this as a choice by necessity in a moral dilemma rather than as an unproblematic pursuit of a fundamental “collective” good. If the abstract entity (the “state,” “society,” or the “collective”) has the moral priority, then the even permanent abridgment of any amount of freedom is no moral wrong. What the state giveth, the state taketh away.’

Something I like to keep in mind:  Many people, in fact, most people, haven’t really thought through the consequences of what changing a particular rule and/or law will have beyond their own narrower interests.  It’s rare that a particular injustice, the facts on the ground, and some moral and presumed universal claim align, thus requiring very important change.

In the public square and the marketplace, too, simple ignorance is often the rule, not the exception.  Genuine truths usually come bundled with self-interest, financial interest, and groups of people often reinforcing their own pre-held beliefs, opinions, convictions and let’s not forget:  A required common enemy to define themselves against.  There’s a lot of preening and in-group/out-group issues constantly going on.

Seattle Photo & A Poem By Elizabeth Bishop-For Commerce Or Contemplation

Large Bad Picture

Remembering the Strait of Belle Isle or 
some northerly harbor of Labrador, 
before he became a schoolteacher 
a great-uncle painted a big picture.
 

Receding for miles on either side 
into a flushed, still sky 
are overhanging pale blue cliffs 
hundreds of feet high, 

their bases fretted by little arches, 
the entrances to caves 
running in along the level of a bay 
masked by perfect waves. 

On the middle of that quiet floor 
sits a fleet of small black ships, 
square-rigged, sails furled, motionless, 
their spars like burnt match-sticks. 

And high above them, over the tall cliffs’ 
semi-translucent ranks, 
are scribbled hundreds of fine black birds 
hanging in n’s in banks. 

One can hear their crying, crying, 
the only sound there is 
except for occasional sizhine 
as a large aquatic animal breathes. 

In the pink light 
the small red sun goes rolling, rolling, 
round and round and round at the same height 
in perpetual sunset, comprehensive, consoling, 

while the ships consider it. 
Apparently they have reached their destination. 
It would be hard to say what brought them there, 
commerce or contemplation.

Elizabeth Bishop