Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Poem: Experiential Philosophy

One of my earliest romantic loves was Baruch Spinoza, the 17th Century Dutch-Portuguese-Jewish philosopher. My emotions were Wagnerian operas roared. I had no control; gentle Spinoza understood. That man knew me. Blew my mind though I was unable to work his logic on my passions or "consider human actions and appetites just as if it were a Question of lines, planes, and bodies."

I read both Spinoza and Descartes while cozied in a chair I inherited from an upperclassman (who was in truth a woman but upperclasswoman feels like gentry rather than year in college). That chair so padded and accommodating was the chair of chairs, the eidos (Platonic form) of reading zones. I am unable even now to distinguish the philosophy I read from my experience of reading the philosophers.

Experiential Philosophy

Descartes was not a philosopher,
but a chair with one arm
around me and another
under my legs,
carrying the puny selfhood
I crawled from at 18
on knees and elbows.
You can live in the ring of mist
around the leaning Chinese peak
if a hung-up life’s enough.
Ah, the consolation of

Spinoza was the man
I’d have married
if I’d moved to Salinas,
worked in a Woolworth’s,
lived over a bar, not “matriculated,”
written. Smiled at the gentle.
To know who you are
is to be complete. “Your mother
tried to protect you.”

Rationality is fearless,
mysticism a corolla of the sun,
a parley with the soul,
hot gold and warm honey
in the melancholy beehive.

Each substance has attributes,
i.e., the cat’s meow: is

proof enough of my existence;
existence proof that paralysis
is a few pages of the history,
that history is just a word and
“now,” this one, I said, here,
is a liberation, if observed new.

Published in Fogged Clarity and collected in The Future Is Happy.
Note: The whimsical and imaginative illustration is from a blog which I'm unable to read (Italian): http://mariodomina.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/lezione-spinozista-8-sub-specie-aeternitatis/ [Blog di riflessione, critica e discussione filosofica a cura di Mario Domina]

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