Saturday, October 28, 2023

If Adam ate Snake instead of the Apple 🍎

“Trust in human nature is acceptance of the good-and-bad of it, and it is hard to trust those who do not admit their own weakness.”

Merely righteous people are impossible to live with because they have no humor, do not allow the true human nature to be, and are dangerously unconscious of their own shadows. Like all legalists and busybodies, they are trying to put the world on a Procrustean bed of linear regulations so that they are unable to make reasonable compromises

“Man, do not exalt yourself above the animals,” Dostoyevsky admonished in his largehearted case for animal rights

A quarter century before him, on the other side of the world, Whitman instructed in his radiant advice on life to “love the earth and sun and the animals,” then went on to celebrate the dignity of nonhuman animals as creatures “so placid and self-contain’d” that they put our human follies to shame:

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

Milan Kundera on Animal Rights and What True Human Goodness Really Means

“Nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom,” James Baldwin admonished as he considered how we imprison ourselves, for he knew just how limited our freedom is and how illusory our choices. And yet we must move through the world with a feeling of freedom, necessary for our sense of agency, for making our existential helplessness bearable, for making our lives of consequence. More than that, freedom — the sense of it, no matter the fact of it — must be at the center of our being, if we are to be. Ursula K. Le Guin’s understood this when she insisted that freedom “must remain a quality of the mind or spirit not dependent on circumstances, a gift of grace.”

That is what Octavio Paz (March 31, 1914–April 19, 1998) explores throughout The Double Flame(public library) — his uncommonly insightful inquiry into love as “a knot made of two intertwined freedoms,” at the center of which is his insistence that “there is an intimate, causal relation between love and freedom,” that freedom is the fundamental necessity of being.

Trust & The unbearable lightness of Antipodean freedom

Every single thing we make, even the smallest, we make with the whole of who we are and what we have lived — with every impression and every memory, every love and every loss, consciously and unconsciously constellated into the creative act. A song encodes its maker’s entire history of feeling. An equation cannot describe why an apple falls without its maker’s entire understanding of how the universe works. The poetry of personhood — which we might call soul — is the raw material for all creative work. To hear its voice requires a delicate harmonizing of what we consciously know and what we unconsciously are — a syncopation of intellect and intuition. 

Thinking about this in the context of Virginia Woolf’s meditation on how to hear your soul and Nick Cave’s insistence on the creative power of trusting yourself, I was reminded of some wonderful passages I had saved from various interviews Lucille Clifton (June 27, 1936–February 13, 2010) gave over the course of her long and luminous life.

How to Be a Living Poem: Lucille Clifton on the Balance of Intellect and Intuition in Creative Work and the Healing Power of Connection

by Jane Hirshfield

To be a person is an untenable proposition.

Odd of proportion,
unbalanced of body, feeling, and mind.

Two predator’s eyes
face forward,
yet seem always to be trying to look back.

Unhooved, untaloned fingers
seem to grasp mostly grief and pain.
To create, too often, mostly grief and pain.

Some take,
in witnessed suffering, pleasure.
Some make, of witnessed suffering, beauty.

On the other side —
a creature capable of blushing,
who chooses to spin until dizzy,
likes what is shiny,
demands to stay awake even when sleepy.

Learns what is basic, what acid,
what are stomata, nuclei, jokes,
which birds are flightless.
Learns to play four-handed piano.
To play, when it is needed, one-handed piano.

Hums. Feeds strays.
Says, “All together now, on three.”

To be a person may be possible then, after all. 

Or the question may be considered still at least open —
an unused drawer, a pair of waiting workboots. 

To Play or Not to play Playful  and  Bear the Human Condition