Imagination, not Dispassionate Imprecision

[ The Note for November 2014 ]

Quoting Albert Einstein, Azar Nafisi reminds us of the vital importance of imaginative vision for actually seeing and making sense of the universe we inhabit. Said the scientist: “I’m enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Stripping the arts out of education doesn’t make us more certain, it makes us less agile, less able to discern what is real in the shifting landscape of experience. The result is devaluation of the human and standardization of thought. Both are ethically unacceptable, and both are costly to society as a whole. Nafisi also quotes Nabokov, who like Einstein and herself was an immigrant citizen whose passion for democracy, basic rights, and human imagination, strengthened our republic. Nabokov would tell students to work “with the passion of a scientist and the precision of a poet.” We are now, as a society, in danger of losing both. We ask scientists to be simply readers of facts, not impassioned explorers, and we misunderstand poetry as a pleasant indulgence, not as the linguistic and expressive frontiersmanship that it is. To deaden both of these for a generation of talents is to deprive our own future economy of what is most valuable: free people dignified by a capacity for the sublime and an aversion to the grave costs of dispassionate imprecision.

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The Creative Approach: The ‘Other’ Evolving

The creative approach to language, the expressive urge, the impact of a whim to let the unseen meaning come to be seen, come into the light: to write creatively, one must know how to think without the limiting slant of convention, and this means to recognize, to fashion, to come upon new forms and counterweights, new allowances, and to effect bold innovations in the way words and sounds and currents of meaning are matched and provided for…

To think about achieving new cosmologies, to think outside the geometry of the known (or presumed) universe, we must first come to the understanding that rule-based thinking is designed to leave us with thoughts that re-affirm the underlying preconceptions, the rules…

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Poetry is a Vehicle of Meaning, Necessary Now as Ever :: Poetry is the frontier where language in use comes in contact with future meaning, and in the process, when best executed, brings a wealth of transcendent truths into the present. Poetry is relevant to all uses of language, though there may be trends that suggest popular culture is looking to new forms of poetic activity to replace specific old models: many musical artists now play the role of mythic historian or wandering troubadour, but poetry is not confined to these purposes.

The art of the rhyming couplet, the frenetic ebb and flow of iambic pentameter, sometimes seem in today’s language environment more a distraction than a vehicle for delivering meaning across time. Poetry now resides in subtler places in more intricate and interrelated forms. It seeps into political discourse, into rap, into the dialogue between two characters on a movie screen, often for brief moments, then pushed aside by a mass of prose and fact and circumstance. But this is not new and it is not hazardous to poetry’s survival as a concentrated art-form fashioning new molds and opening new horizons.

It has always been the case that the oracular function of poetry, looking deep within or to the far reaches of the known and knowable, happens at the edges of the prosaic, at the fringe of our collective normalcy, in a place where in direct proportion to the intensity of the vision we confront those basic truths of our existence we often prefer not to engage.

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