The Danger of Belief

Wow. Just a little bad poetry leads to a surprising number of un-subscription notices. Sure, I admit my blog no longer occupies me like before. With new projects keeping me busy, I just don’t have time to write decent posts. So lately it has seemed like a reasonable idea to put up my more philosophical poems, even though they tend to be of poor quality.

You might be wondering why. Or perhaps you’ve already cancelled your subscription.

Here’s the thing. Poems attract me because they are unavoidably ambiguous. Even if a piece seems to say one thing very clearly, it could be undermining itself on another level. The author may not even intend the mixed message, but there it is. This shiftiness fits my current attitude toward truth, or rather my lack of belief in it.

On all sides in our world we hear people with fixed opinions, and sometimes they are even prepared to die or (more likely) kill for these convictions. What nonsense! If I’m sure of anything, which I admit is doubtful, I’m sure that if two people disagree they must both be partially right. Are taxes bad? Yes and no. Is the universe random? Yes and no. Does God exist? Yes and no.

We humans believe our minds reliable, but this is a delusion. Our minds are brilliant tools for manipulating reality, but they are not so good at understanding it. If you could take all the human brains and hearts, and all the observations, ideas, and feelings in these organs, then synthesize them into one human consciousness, you might end up with a meaningful picture of life. But by itself, every individual mind is but a tiny lens on the world. Like an ommatidium in an insect compound eye, each human sees reality from one fixed and narrow perspective. Only by integrating all the viewpoints could you come up with anything resembling ultimate knowledge.

Unfortunately, unlike the components of the dragonfly’s eye, which are both mindless and cooperative, humans suffer from grandiosity. Rather than recognizing we are small parts of one whole, we think we are separate and independent. Each of us tends to assume our solitary porthole on creation is the only correct vantage. Again, this is nonsense.

As a result of this realization, I hesitate to state my views anymore. Not that I don’t have opinions, but my faith in them has been undermined. As an alternative to single-mindedness, I try to assimilate all ideas that seem even partly plausible, and build from them a more holistic understanding. But such comprehension suffers from contradiction, paradox, and ineffability. Hence my tendency lately to rely on poetry instead of prose. Why not use the language of ambiguity to describe a world that cannot be pinned down with simplistic, linear thought?

Perhaps my mistake lies in only posting my philosophical poetry, rather than all of it. The philosophical pieces come dangerously close to stating beliefs. And as I say, I don’t believe in beliefs.

This wouldn’t seem important to explain, except that our civilization is about to self-destruct. If people don’t begin to understand their fallibility and ignorance, if they continue to think they possess a definable ‘truth,’ I fear there will be no avoiding catastrophe. It is time for us to recognize that we are more like a hive than we think. We are more dependent on others than we know. And by ourselves, we are woefully limited in understanding.

I hope this satisfies those who are sick of my poetry. Probably people wish this blog would go back to describing emotional angst and its survivability. But right now it seems more important to write about human nature and our prospects for transcending it.


The Danger of Belief — 8 Comments

  1. I thought the poem was beautiful. Sometimes people just unsubscribe from lack of posts or a desire to stop reading blogs… I wouldn’t take it too personally. I lose followers and gain followers all the time, regardless of what I post.

  2. I enjoyed both of the poems very much. The 3/2 one was delightful fun, and the 3/3 one was very rich. I always enjoy your use of natural images. I respond as with reading Mary Oliver.

  3. Thanks, Michael. Any comparison with Mary Oliver is high praise, indeed. Very hard for me to not brush off the compliment (just deleted two sentences doing exactly that), but I’m going to force myself to simply appreciate it. Blessings.

  4. As usual a very interesting post. You never disappoint. There are all sorts of statements in this post that generated all sorts of thoughts in my head. The sign of good writing eh?

    People and life are full of paradoxes, stands to reason that poetry would be also. What’s poetry? Personal experience in the form of verse iambic pentameter. It cannot be anything but ambiguous, paradoxical but of course my poems are in the end my experience. Your ambiguity is my spot accuracy by way of metaphor.

    Which also means there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ poem. Keep writing.

  5. JSS–

    Thanks for the comment; glad to be the prompt for interesting thoughts. Well, there may not be bad poetry, but there is *better* poetry. But thanks for the encouragement to keep going.


  6. Pingback: Contradiction: Fact of Nature « WillSpirit!

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