Guest Entry: An Etymological Meditation: Humoristic-anguished essay in a register poetico et eleganti

The author of this text must warn that he is a dilettante writer and, in the words of someone more gifted than him, “un sombre raseur”. He understands very little about poetry and less and  less  about  wisdom,  which  counts  so  many  acquaintances  and  so  few  true  friends. However, having been invited by his own friends the masters in the art of philosophy and the science  of  poetry  to  contribute  to  their  enterprise,  for  which  he  is  grateful,  he  has, unaccustomedly,  laid  on  paper  a  series  of  reflections,  intended  less  to  stimulate  reflection themselves than to amuse and be forgotten afterwards. The author hopes that these few lines, written without pretention, will be pleasant to his reader – if he is allowed to believe that he will have one – and entertain him the space of a few moments.

Poiesis, in Greek, means “creation”. God was a poet when He created the world. Let us hope that He was inspired.

Does this entail that inspiration pre-exists God, that she is more primordial than Him? Yet is it not said that it is God who grants inspiration, the breath of life, the soul, which some Greeks call  psyche  and  some  others  call  pneuma?  Conclusion,  somersault:  God  is  the  creative inspiration. Besides, if inspiration were exterior to Him, as she is to us, she could never have accompanied  Him  during  the  six  days  that  lasted  His  labour.  Inspiration  is  an  untameable mistress that visits her lovers according to her own wants and never spends much time with either of them; she gleans hither and thither, the bohemian youngest sibling of the Erinyes, coming and going according to her whim, which is the logic of women and of the gods; sword of Damocles that rejoices those it slays – for in the same manner as the ones that die see their life flash before them in a single instant that is both life and death, those that are pierced by its blade are vivified in the blink of an eye by a hundred new impressions of which only a few, for lack of time, they will be able to seize in their flight. The beloved child of the muses, their slave, must find solace in that, in the world of spirit, value is not a function of quantity, therefore that what is precious is so even when there is little of it.

It can be said of inspiration that she is fickle; it can also be said of her that she is cruel. For when  she  is  here,  when  she  finally  deigned  to  torment  her  suitor  by  according  him  her favours, she takes away by that very motion his rest and forbids him from laying down the feather  until,  without  the  maniac  even  noticing,  she  has  forsaken  him  anew.  But  the  poets prefer this  torture infinitely more  to  this  other  one,  alas  more  frequent,  that  consists  in  her absence, for the mind is an ass and the days drag their feet when she is not there to crack the whip.

I asked her to hold me
I said: ‘Lady, unfold me’,
But she scorned me and she told me
I was dead and I could never return

COHEN, Leonard: Lady Midnight. In: Songs from a Room, 1969.

God is inspiration, the world is His poetry. A critic could make the remark that the world is far  from  being  as  succeeded  as  it  could  be:  that  it  is  horribly  long,  that  certain  parts  are clumsily composed, that truthfully it is in a number of ways merely ugly and that it does not offer  much  in  the  way  of  either  heads  or  tails;  yes  that  this  poem,  epic,  tragic,  comedic, absurd,   brilliant   piece   of   amateur   ambition,   that   this   creature,   this   chimera,   contains simultaneously  the  best  and  the  worst  the  human  mind  could  imagine.  This  critic  could continue his evaluation by conceding that the work has potential and even showcases traces of true genius – mad genius perhaps, but genius nonetheless – but that it merits to be reworked, edited, censored. The appreciation, should no one have asked for it, is nevertheless accurate; the  advice,  however,  relies  perhaps  more  on  good  faith  than  on  good  judgement.  Because style, as Buffon (1)  says, is the man himself – his personal way of relating to a thought, his own flick of the wrist when it comes to forming an idea so that it may be presented to the outside, short:   that   unintelligible   part   of   interiority   which   he   struggles   to   not   express   when communicating.  Style  is  first  and  foremost  the  imperfections,  the  grooves  and  kinks  in  an writer’s mind. Style is what makes him stand out, for the best and for the worst. And the least one  can  say  about  this  extravagant  bit  of  poetry  that  is  the  world  is  that  it  is  indeed remarkable.

God  is  inspiration,  the  world  His  poetry.  This  is  why  the  poets  find  their  matter  in  the contemplation of nature, understood broadly as the things of the world. A fertile mind always finds a spur in what has  sprung from another. This principle of emulation can be observed between  men,  the  same  process  must  be  at  work  between  them  and  the  world  (let  us remember  that  for  Bishop  Berkeley everything  exists  in  the  mind of  God  and  that  Spinoza says  that  there  is  only  one  substance  which  is:  “Deus  sive  Natura”).  This  is  also  why, however, nothing created by men is ever perfectly new.

(1)  Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon. No relation to the goalkeeper.

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