Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Thinking became a garden of its own..."

Gregory Bateson was a seminal influence in the fields of anthropology, social science, and communication (cybernetics). In Steps to an Ecology of Mind he introduced the concept of second-order change (a capacity to process and respond to information in self-corrective ways). His poem The Manuscript nicely appropriates our logical thought patterns and language:
if you read between the lines
You will find nothing there...

Only the precision

The skeleton of truth
I do not dabble in emotion...
Not that our attraction to logic denies emotion, but hanging out exclusively in our left-brain processes will create some distance in relationships (no need to have a deep conversation when the priority is clearly to complete a manuscript).  

Certainly the most waggishly comical depiction of this need for personal space confronts us in W.H. Auden's I Have No Gun But I Can Spit (the thirty inches taken from social science studies): 
Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes...
Beware of rudely crossing it:
I have no gun, but I can spit.  
Karl Shapiro offered a brilliant metaphor for the pleasures of the mind in "The Sickness of Adam" (from "Adam and Eve"):
...He began to walk
Slowly, like one accustomed to be alone.
He found himself lost in the field of talk;
Thinking became a garden of its own... 
But even in such an intellectual garden we long for intimacy, which Shapiro's Adam seemed to know in his bones:  
...God approached him in the cool of day
And said, "This sickness in your skeleton
Is longing. I will remove it from your clay"...
To draw closer to others, we must move past our caution. Shapiro took us further into Adam's desire and fear in "The Recognition of Eve" (from "Adam and Eve"):  
...when she spoke the first word (it was thou)
He was terror-stricken, but she raised her hand
And touched his wound where it was fading now...

Adam could see her wandering through the wood...
And there he followed shyly to observe.
She was already turning beautiful. 
We can expand, step out of our narrow confines, connect with others and with our intrinsic nature. Naomi Replansky's luminous poem "Housing Shortage" unfolds the internal experience of this transformational shift:    
I tried to live small.
I took a narrow bed...
Given inches, I take yards,
Taking yards, dream of miles,
And a landscape, unbounded
And vast in abandon.

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