In the realm of poetry (& maybe other realms) I find it difficult to balance and reconcile truth & beauty, the didactic & the aesthetic, the legislative/executive & the playful/imaginative, the prophetic & the poetic...

Look at people like Pound, Olson... ambitious-serious "alpha male" epic types. Avatars of the will-to-order, the will to govern, to dominate, to rule. (Yeats's "king of cats".) Though I don't consider myself very alpha, I feel I've muddled along in some similar deep swamps. Hence my affection for figures closer to the "artist" side of this line (Hart Crane, Stevens). Forth of July is really a playful jab toward the crystallization of a "national epic", drawing on contrary models (like Crane, Berryman, Mandelstam, etc.). [ (Will anybody ever notice what I've been doing here?) ]

from one perspective, the sane & ethical approach, as an artist, would be to maintain a strict detachment, to offer an impersonal mirror... from another perspective this seems impossible, an illusion : we are already caught up and involved emotionally & intellectually with the "materials"...

the whole issue of the poet as "unacknowledged legislator" stems from the fact that all our communal social constructs are rooted, at least to some degree, in the imagination itself... or is this an attitude (for an artist anyway) of foolish, over-reaching pride? Is the substance of reality firm & structured & prior to our conceptions about it?

(Another aspect of this is that much social, didactic, political poetry is not really very poetic. It's prose dressed up as poetry. Of course it can be very effective just like that. But it doesn't re-imagine, re-create the cosmos, the way the great epics do. It lacks the orphic fictional-poetic power of Virgil, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare... - the regal sceptre of the imagination - Mandelstam's "baton". I suppose the sceptre has been passed to the novelists, the scientists, the philosophers, the "critical theorists"...)

Old puzzles... this crux perhaps marks the difference between the medieval, the Renaissance & the modern mentalities...

Maybe that's one reason I like the philosophical writings of Nicholas of Cusa so much. For Cusanus, our knowledge reaches its limit in puzzles & paradoxes. God is "the conjunction of opposites". He acknowledges the source of all order & creation in God; at the same time he asserts that all our concepts of God are just that, human constructs, "conjectures", that in fact our whole sensible, knowable reality is a conjectural human construct, an artifice of the mind...

I thought this morning that the resolution of this puzzle or paradox lies in an understanding of the nature of divine love. If "God is Love", as the epistle of John has it, and if Love is a kind of binding embrace of the Other which is at the same time a renunciation, a self-giving to the other, a state of service or servanthood - then it's in the light of this kind of Love that we can imagine another Biblical concept, ie. "perfect freedom".

Imagine a divine nature which wants to create a cosmos of "perfect freedom", because this desire is rooted in love, and love's deepest motive is to "set free". Then this divine nature would of necessity have to withdraw, relinquish control and dominion on some level. Of course this does not necessarily entail indifference (the remote, the clockwork God). "Selfless-love-without-indifference", then, is in itself a kind of incomprehensible paradox. Incomprehensibility, even absurdity, of a kind we meet with in ordinary life (cf. the parable of the Good Samaritan).

I guess I'm simply recycling some old, old via negativa notions going back to Pseudo-Dionysius & Byzantine theology & long before (Plato on love, etc.).

But these notions seem to be essential to any integration of order & freedom, of cosmos & chance, of medieval and renaissance, of theology & humanism. A figure of paradox like Cusanus appears at the cusp of this historic shift (between medieval & modern). He has a mind fascinated with invention and creative freedom. His writings are playful intellectual-philosophical games, conceptual inventions.

But it seems to me the crux of it all is this fusion of the will-to-love ("good will") with the idea of "perfect freedom". Maybe this is the nexus where the gift of artistic detachment & inner freedom rhymes with a more "sober" concept of necessity, reality, history, fact, the moral law, governance, political & juris-prudence, etc.

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