In Hope Against Hope, Nadezhda Mandelstam repeatedly evokes something she calls "humanism", or "traditional humanism", by which (I think) she means the basic ordinary values underlying normative civil society and social life, basic human kindliness and sense of mutual responsibility, sanity, "piety" in the old sense, natural law, the golden rule, simple good nature, the "love your neighbor" ethic... - which she records being systematically wiped out under Stalin, and which she found in paradoxical places (not so much among the intelligentsia, as among the humblest & poorest workers & displaced peasants, who helped the Mandelstams on their hard road).

It seems to me that - with respect to this sense of "humanism" - M.'s notion of the cultural meaning of Redemption - as sketched in the unfinished essay "Pushkin & Scriabin" - is enormously rich in implications & possibilities.

As I noted before here, his idea that the once-&-for-all Redemption sets culture & art free, for spiritual play - "hide & seek with the Father", as he puts it - could be aligned with a sort of classicism. This is so because any concept of Redemption is underwritten by a certain certainty about the divine purpose : the Redemption is a showing-forth of divine providential wisdom & plan. Such belief in divine plan is not solely Christian, but structures most ancient religious thought & culture. One can see it in the Stoic's acceptance of destiny, the amor fati. One can see it in all kinds of fatalistic determinism, religious & philosophical. One of the hallmarks of "classicism" in art is its expressive awareness & representation of "the way things are", the way things cannot otherwise be.

(Simone Weil wrote some penetrating essays on this topic, which offer an interesting parallel to Mandelstam's orientation. She focused on ancient Greek concepts of beauty, necessity, and mediation - and their analogues in Christian concepts of nature and grace.)

But there is something else going on with Mandelstam & his neo-classical Acmeism, something which actually opposes fatalism & any kind of indifference. M. likened the poet or artist to the "grateful guest" in the beautiful & tremendous "palace" of the earth, nature, Creation. This is one expression of the specifically Christian grounding of the idea of Providence in the love-relationship between creature & Creator. The artist - & the human being generally - fulfills his or her nature most completely, by embracing this playful relationship of love & trust between the human and the divine. Life here is given complete meaning within the circle defined by the radius of relation between creature & Creator. This is indeed a specifically religious (as well as philosophical) way or means of understanding the nature of the cosmos & our experience of life. (If our ultimate understanding of experience is shaped by a loving relation between creature and Creator - well, there are implications here not only about fate & destiny & plan, but also about (playful) freedom - the spiritual freedom of the children of God, in the Pauline sense.)

My own interest, for a while now, has been to explore how such a worldview can be synthesized with the specific powers & qualities of making my poems, & with poetry in general (how, in this context, the manner & discourse of poetry relates/contrasts to other forms of human expression). Along with recognizing the human (and personal) limitations on any such verbal formulae or "explanations" of experience : since there is always a deeper level, oftentimes shunted aside or avoided - a more acute angle of perception, a blindspot...

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