November 15, 2006

Pinnacle of Poetry

Posted in culture, family, fiction, film, literature, mythology, novelists, philosophy of mind, poetry, psychology at 9:40 am by Jerry

After re-reading Becky’s post on our baby blog, I wonder how frustrated our child may get because of how badly we misunderstand him/her. Articulation is such a challenge. I consider it one of my greatest weaknesses. I’m not exactly superhuman in other areas either, but in some sense, ineffability has become my Kryptonite. (Maybe that’s why I’m so hard on those who pursue ineffability.)

I can already see the irony in what I’ve just said here, because, my pursuit to improve my ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings about my life and the world I live in, is, in fact, a form of pursuing ineffability. Let me attempt to clarify: I’m not saying any pursuit of ineffability is dangerous. What I am saying, is – destroying or barring forever any knowledge, and the language that carries it, is dangerous. If we pursue ineffability by reaching the limits of knowledge and language after using all knowledge and language available to us, then ineffability can be accepted as a part of our current identity. Arriving at this point, for me, is the pinnacle of poetry.

I say “forever” above, because I see validity in keeping certain knowledge from ourselves until we think we are ready for it. It may seem, at times, knowledge and language can be mirrors that don’t always reveal the best of life, including ourselves. But this shouldn’t make knowledge and language our enemies. I know meaning can often get buried in so-called knowledge and convoluted wordiness. It doesn’t have to. Knowledge and language can reveal meanings, create clarity, and help us understand their limits. These are not characteristics of an enemy, but instead, a friend.

And this is the kind of friend that can empower us. There’s validity in the saying, “Knowledge is power,” as long as that knowledge is in the right hands. How alienated and powerless would we feel if we were not able to articulate who we are to others? How blind would this world be if we barred knowledge of others from ourselves?

Here’s a clip from the movie “Waking Life” – an elaboration of language and the human need to communicate with others…


*[Coffee break needed here. This post doesn’t know if it’s two posts or one.]


There is power in being known and knowing someone’s identity, someone’s true name

My baking and brewing I will do today,
The queen’s son to-morrow I will take away,
No wise man can show the queen where to begin,
For my name, to be sure, is Rumplestiltskin.

Rumpelstiltskin – one of many ineffable names, only, this one was ineffable out of ignorance, not out of fear. Out of fear, other monsters’ names are not uttered because it is felt the utterance would call the monster’s attention to the one speaking their name, as if the monster was omnipresent. This kind of superstitious fear gives more power to the monster and its name than deserved. (A lesson kids can learn from Rowling’s Harry Potter.)

And what, exactly, are the evil doers’ motivations for wanting others and themselves to believe misrepresentations of their own identity? I think it’s because the truth would reveal how small and incompetent the evil doers really are. I think this is the reason why some myth-making novelists portray the paradoxal vampires as incapable of seeing their own reflections. And I say “paradoxal” because these “undead” creatures are also created to have the power of immortality. To me, this represents the lofty value of life, recognizing that as long as life has existed, its always been larger than death.

But I’m getting off track here. Tangents – for good or bad, you’ll find them in all daydreamers.

At a loss without a segue, I’ll return back to the beginning about my child’s articulating abilities and say that I’m also looking forward to the day when our child articulates his/her recognition of us parents by calling out, “Momma” and “Daddy.” But before the little one tries to articulate our self-imposed names, the two of us have to try to make our nameless child named, which is no easy task.

Whatever his or her name will be, someday, I may end up telling the little one that as much as I try to understand her/him, I will not be able to define who s/he is in a few syllables (or a 300 page biography); but I’d be more than willing to help her/him pursue the ineffability of his or her identity through the means of all available knowledge and language. I know it’s presumptuous to pre-plan my fatherly role here, so I’ll just say – I’m looking forward to being there when my child needs my help on his/her journey of struggles.


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