Tuesday, July 20, 2004

(Disclaimer: This post is provoked by a memory of something Josh Corey wrote a week or three back. It was a question regarding what he saw as an increase in 'spiritual' tendencies in poetry of late. I can’t remember it specifically nor can I track it down, so I’ll leave it unlinked. Maybe I imagined it.)
To be a human is to have a spiritual aspect. (Aspect is a clumsy word as I’m using it, I apologize—I mean by aspect something of which we, interpenetrated by it and other ‘aspects,’ are—I mean a quality marbled through us.) My assertion is like a Victorian saying “To be a human is to have a sexual aspect.” That is, we now are all on board, as a matter of communal consciousness, with there being no vital aspect of ourselves which lacks a sexual aspect, that there is no part of ourselves not interpenetrated by eros, no part not part of our interpenetrated whole (I know, if Beavis was a grad student that’s what he’d want to write). But as a person and a poet in America this era, it’s always been an unspoken understanding—a Barthesian myth, really—that having a metaphysic which involves a sense of nonempirical self will elicit an ambivalent response (anger/arousal), something like an ankle may have in Kate Chopin’s day. I think the noticed trend is this mentality now entering another stage of gradual easing. So I now, humble with my timidity, submit that the transcendent is not illusory, and is not merely signified. (And further, that it lends itself to mere signification is a quality peculiar to it, and an element of any consideration regarding spirituality especially inre: society and its Leviathanic needs.) 
That, just as with sexuality, it takes a magnificent effort to exclude the spiritual. To see it as an aspect, and not an integral, of one’s existence, is (also) a societally-implicated self-mutilation. As with all social distortions, time will do its work through us to bring back balance. And that bringing-back-to-balance is my sense of ‘why’ our poetic work is revolving towards a new integration of spiritual-feeling now.

I can be all for the separation of Church and State while realizing the mentality which gave rise to it is flawed—and that the negativity of the religion which it was reaction to necessitated it (by this I mean the thingy about our forefathers whereby physicality, body, beingness, existence, and self were at best treated with suspicion and at worst were all treated as manifestations of evil.). All that ugly messy American stuff Hawthorn & Melville & so on tried to get a grip on. Religion has been going for spirituality’s throat for god-knows-how-long, and the strange way our country is founded on that tension is as powerful as its originary self-contradictions regarding slavery.

I mean, what is there to say about religion v. spirituality that Dostoevsky hasn’t already said (i.e., in the “Grand Inquisitor” section within Brothers Karamazov)? Or, for that matter, for the basic incompatibility of any society I know (by participation or rumor) and spirituality? The intense selfness—I suppose I’m borrowing from Howe’s sense of the antinomian, but also Bloom’s gnostic sense of genius—of creating oneself, of spiritual being, is too creatively anarchic to support timely trains, I maybe think. But doesn’t America seem particularly ambivalent about the whole thing? I mean, I think the psychological term is ‘split.’ There’s just no integration, no moderation. Our spasmic manifestations of spirituality (John Smith, etc.) are not part of society as a whole, they are symptomatic-of, corrective, splintering actings-out, seen this way.

At this point, I’ll leave it be, because I can’t even write the word ‘spirituality’ without inverted commas anymore. There must be a better word somewhere for this quality. But my (our) uncomfortableness with it must speak to something like what I’m trying to get at. I am saying it in as empirical and non-religious a sense as I can. & I also apologize for the messiness of my logic--I will think it through and hopefully streamline this. I will, even, maybe, get in the habit of extemporizing then editing then posting (as opposed to extemporized posting), so as to spare any readers too much fussy-messiness.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe with Bloglines