Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the past

If you don't have time for the past -- have some historical consciousness -- then you are lost in a freaking daydream. Floating on the surface of a context-less now. It's hard to even imagine it. But it must be similar to the psychosis of derealization. It's not in the medical books -- "Willful Dementia" -- because it would mean a massive and stressful psychological intervention. Just not enough men in white coats for such a thing.

It's not merely about the lack of instrumental or causal knowledge -- being aware of how traces of the far past subtly affect the present. It's more about a spiritual-aesthetic dynamic missing from the brains of 3 1/2 billion people. How could anyone who is incurious and un-fascinated about gone time -- about how it must have felt to look around and breathe in, say, 1920 (or 1865) -- not go into convulsions of shallowness?

On the Beach, Sunset, 1865 -- Eugène Boudin

Further, and I'm just asking now -- how could a poem or any text that is not haunted by some aspects of history (an implicit volume of old and melancholy significance) be much worth bothering with? Maybe that's why I like East European poetry so much. The past is so present there. Poets there are compelled to write into and through the past, rather than express their purely current pathology. Such a temporal orientation forces the issue -- drags the poet out of himself and into the vaster mystic.

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