Saturday, September 1, 2012
The Lightening Bug is not the Beacon
A poetic sensibility ought not be mistaken for a lens through which life may be understood.
The insight of the poet is akin to the light of the firefly, seen across the lawn. Beautiful, fleeting, personally and therefore irrationally reassuring, a sound poem provides this flash, this arresting but momentary and faint illumination.
But you are likely to trip over the lawn furniture if you guide yourself by the light of the firefly.
Thoughts which occur on the second and third reading of Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox.
Berlin identifies Tolstoy's "deeply skeptical and pessimistic view of the strength of the non-rational in human behavior, which at once dominate human beings and deceive them about themselves."
Tolstoy harbored a deep suspicion of the romantic notion that "true knowledge cannot be obtained by the use of reason but only by a kind of imaginative self-identification with the central principle of the universe - the soul of the world - such as do artists and thinkers in moments of divine inspiration."