Unreal Nature

February 10, 2018

I Have It In Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… we are “distracted from distraction by distraction.”

This is from On Life’s Journey: Always Becoming by Daniel A. Lindley (2006). At the author’s implied request, I am willing to accept his interpretation of the idea of ‘archetypes’ for the duration of his book. I do this in order to consider and enjoy his ideas, whether or not I agree with or believe in them:

The subject of this book is the archetypal ground that underlies our journey from birth to death. That ground is universal, ever-present, and experienced as image and feeling. Because William Wordsworth’s great poem “Ode: Intimation of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” has the same subject, I refer to it throughout. In it, he wrote:

… those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal silence: truths that wake,
To perish never. …

… Imagine the moment of beginning to read a story or a poem. Or remember the feeling in the theater as the house lights dim but the curtain has not yet risen. Or the moment just before entering an exhibition of Rembrandt etchings or Egyptian Old Kingdom sculpture. Or the moment after the orchestra has become silent, as we await the conductor’s first gesture and the first coruscation of sound. In each of these situations we are expectant and, to some degree at least, trusting.

[line break added] We trust that we will shortly experience something more ordered than our commonplace world. Literature, painting, sculpture and music differ from daily life because they are shaped. They have explicit or implicit plots. Their world is not governed by accident or caprice. Rather, they are governed by form. Form makes meaning by keeping meaninglessness — in other words, chaos — at bay. That is one reason why art matters. Art differs from daily life because daily life “just happens.”

[line break added] But suppose we were to discover form in our ordinary experience — form of the sort we find in art, story, or music. We would then have a new view of ourselves: a view that says we are living a story that has a structure, indeed a structure that we can know. The argument of this book is that our lives are structured, shaped by forces emanating from the common ground of the archetypes. Knowing the structure can defeat helplessness by giving meaning to the course of our life.

The underlying structure is hard for us to see, though. As T.S. Eliot observed, we are “distracted from distraction by distraction.”

… One of life’s tasks is to maintain a creative tension between conscious and unconscious in spite of the sometimes painful loneliness that comes from being separated from ordinary worldliness by an awareness of one’s inner world. Robert Frost:

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars — on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

… The realm of the archetypes compels thought, quietude, awe, fear, and delight. They are indeed:

Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day

-Julie

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