Friday, April 29, 2011

Euphemism (Part 1)

We know what we do.
We refuse to name,
we invoke
those who will not be named,
or those who we misname--
the Eumenides--
and we weasel
by distinguishing use and mention.

And so we separate
the objective world
of asteroids, cosmic dust,
quarks, statistics
from fathoms, risks,
hopes, delusions.

And that teaches us
the second most important lesson:
how to analyze.
And it cloaks the most important one:
as inside, so outside.

To know a chair--
the form of a chair--
is to participate
in chairness. To represent
is to be mappable.
The map is not the territory
but the structure of both
is something like
participation. To participate
is to live. And to live
is to flourish in degrees.

Knowing chairs we gain competence,
and knowing rhetoric we gain mastery.
Knowing friendship is
especial flourishing. It is to be at home.
And knowing love?
Ah, that one is to know your brokenness.
That one is to raise up hope
and to switch back and forth
from the foreground view of consuming terror
to the middle-distance view
of the biggest expansion in life,
to the distant view
of fury at reality. Impatient
fury at all that dies and all that struggles.

And it is to raise the Erinyes
to kick and claw us into steel wool,
to dismember us, to get us outside;
outside ourselves, outside expectation.
Until ashes remain. Until we are
drained as children after summer play
under the meaningless stars.

Consider: "It may be true, that as Francis Thompson noted, "Thou canst not stir a flower without troubling a star", but in computing the motion of stars and planets, the effects of flowers do not loom large. It is the disregarding of the effect of flowers on stars that allows progress in astronomy. Appropriate abstraction is critical to progress in science."


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