Saturday, June 28, 2003

E. E. Cummings - who are you,little i

This poem of E. E. Cummings [note: this is how he signed his own name, not e e cummings] now graces the wall of my office [the egoism begins]. It's the first piece of poetry to really grab my attention, touch me, make me appreciate life, and make me wish that I had written it--the desire to compose poetry is not wont for me.

who are you,little i

(five or six years old)
peering from some high

window;at the gold

of november sunset

(and feeling:that if day
has to become night

this is a beautiful way)

This poem touches me on several themes the first one being the one to draw me in:

1. "...if day/has to become night/this is a beautiful way" - is a touching way to describe an unwelcome transition. Related to all clouds having silver linings, I've begun to delve into the ways to find beautiful ways for all dreaded finales.

2. "little i/(five or six years old)" - This conveys the wonder of having a youthful presence in himself, and this presence can recognize the beauty of dusk as sublime.

3. "who are you,little i" - A seeming incredulity that there is this person inside (theme 2) who can have such thoughts and feelings about the world.

4. "little i" - Although typical for Cummings, the first person singlular uncaptilized "i" is further emphasised by the 'little' in 'little i'. This lowers the importance of self in regard to the experience.

5. "i" and november - the nonstandard capitalization of i (theme 4) and november deemphasizes the self and promotes the time and details of the sublime experience (theme 1).

Michel de Montaigne - Experience

The thinking of Michel de Montaigne is a natural next step from the thoughts of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who is said to have favored his thoughts.

Montaigne was very introspective, writing essays on the nature of man and truth from solely internal experiences. His idea was that he could best interpret people and the world by making assays into his own being. He lived as a French scholar in the Renaissance, attending law school at the age of 13, going on to lead a political life in France, before retiring and taking up an academic life of writing and studies. His essays written in his 40s are very self critical, self concious, and penetrating. He touts his own weaknesses and considers himself and man to be lowly.

In his essay XXI, on experience, he takes an interesting position, that is atypical of people with as many years experience as he had. He sees experience as a fall back for how to gain knowledge in absence of reasoning. The essay begins with the following, as translated to English by Charles Cotton:

THERE is no desire more natural than that of knowledge. We try all ways that can lead us to it; where reason is wanting, we therein employ experience.

"Per varios usus artem experientia fecit, Exemplo monstrante viam,"

which is a means much more weak and cheap; but truth is no great thing, that we ought not to disdain any mediation that will guide us to it. Reason has so many forms, that we know not to which to take; experience has no fewer; the consequence we would draw from the comparison of events is unsure, by reason they are always unlike..

His thoughts are encouraging to people impatient to grow in wisdom and knowledge. This is the irony. Such impatience seems to preclude attainment of sagacity and certainly erudition. These requirement discernment and a dedication to study. This is definately a Catch-22 (ref: Joseph Heller), deterring those impatient to achieve these values, from achieving them. This stymies the overzealous. Further, since this essay is based off of introspective assessment, it is most likely related to an impatience that Montaigne had himself.

This is an example of the complecity of the ideas that Montaigne implies in simple terms in his essays. These essays are thorough, readable, and thought provoking . They can be found at

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Note on Aphorism and Egoism

Note on the title of this blog - "Aphorism and Egoism" was chosen because I intend to represent the findings in my quest for truth and knowledge. Aphorism as it applies to the truth and knowledge and Egoism as it applies to my journey, and of course the self-conscious things that I will make along the way. I have subtitled this "Ostentatiously Yours, Ed Essey" [I have since removed that subtitle] for what is a public posting of my thoughts--hopefully not written too pedantically--but ostentatious? I am very self-consicous of the role that egoism plays in this, and feel the need to apologize for it and note it where evident. Of course myobservance of my ostentation is also an apology, and perhaps meta in that I'm ostentatiously showing off my awareness of ostentation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Brahma

Here's a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, titled "Brahma". It's remarkable that at the time that it was written, a devout and studied Christian minister such as Emerson, would engage his thoughts on Eastern religion/philosophy. He seems to have been truly a learned man who dedicated himself fully to religion and his belief in God, but not being single-minded or only inwardly focused. Emerson sought the teachings and wisdom of other religions to ease his peradventures: not strictly adhering to fideism, or believing solely in faith--over reason--to find spirituality.

[For those interested in the egoist Essey:] This is moving to me because I believe that most of the religions in the world all stem from the same divinity. This God or spirit being the same, or drawing from the same well, is evident in the overlapping notions of most of the major world religions. At the root, most religions and philosophies commonly agreed upon by man share a common ethos at their cores. Emerson seems to share this sentiment when he told his Western readers--largely unfamiliar with Eastern religion and confued by terms such as Brahma--that they may substitute "Jehovah" for "Brahma" to help them understand the poem.

Here's the poem, but perhaps it would better be entitled "Brahman," which is the idea of the world-soul, as opposed to Brahma, one of the Hindu God trinity {Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva}. Although perhaps Emerson is thinking of Brahma as being the deification/personification of Brahman, the world-spirit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson - Brahma

If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near,
Shadow and sunlight are the same,
The vanished gods to me appear,
And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

[egoist again] And for my amusement, I juxtapose the poem of the divine, warm, memoriless notion of world-spirit in Brahman, with the world-weary concept of weltsmertz in the lyrics by the band Enthral.


Watching as the Walls of the City (of Dreams) Crumbles into Dust
Every Pagan Wiped away by the Sword of the Righteous
In Tears I Realize that there is nothing more to Conquer
Chained to Mortality …Now exposed to Eternity
Gazing at the Sky screaming; How can You do this to Me?
Leaving Me Faceless to the World …A Target for Every Arrow
Pointing at Me From every Shadow, slowly dissolving,
Becoming one with the Earth…
Dragged through the Streets by Angry Hands, A Soul trapped at the Threshold
Ashes Spread on a River…
An Instrument in the Hands of a god Singing; <>
I've Burned the Bridges behind Me, Leaving no Retreat
All I have Left is the Dust From A Thousand Dreams, not even Mine,
I am merely a drop of Water, in an Everflowing Stream…
You see the World through Dead Eyes… Sleeping through the Ages
Gazing at the Earth From a Distant Star
Knowing that what You see has already Happened… You are My Lord of Flies
The Dead who carved for Life …I know not why they lie there Floating
The lie there Devoid of Thought ..Bereft of Life and Drowned in Sorrow
You are the Lord of Flies
The Bane of Mankind is all that He is until He dies,
is a Pawn that is expected to live by the Lies of Tradition
Existing only as Flies crushed by a Mighty Hand
You are the Lord of Flies