Wounds Inflicted by Reason

Posted on Saturday, September 25, 2010 in Imagination


the dark“Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.” 


Stephen Hawking is publishing a new book, The Grand Design.  In it he writes that “because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.  Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” 

Stephen’s statement if it is true would be a triumph of reason over mystery, but it is not true.  We won’t eliminate the mystery why we exist through rational approaches. 

Truth is not to be found exclusively in reason.  Each time I think I know with certainty, something I couldn’t expect or see shows me another way.  It is just as likely that answers come from the shadowy secrets of the heart.

Consider the first five lines of Jane Hirshfields’s extraordinary poem, “Against Certainty.”

“There is something out in the dark that wants to correct us.
Each time I think “this,” it answers “that.”
Answers hard, in the heart-grammar’s strictness.

If I then say “that,” it too is taken away.

Between certainty and the real, an ancient enmity.”

This post is not to argue against reason.  Reason has its place.  It has done a lot of good in helping humanity overcome prejudice and ignorance and be more humane.

But reason worshiped as an ultimate certainty becomes a problem.

An overreliance on reason plays a part in the suffering in the world.  The world demands that we actively heal ourselves and it every moment. 

Humans are a continual balancing act and need to counteract our excessive dependence on the rational analytical mind with heart, faith and the imagination.

A way for healing is through the arts because the arts raise us back into the fullness of human life.  They give us a larger meaning.  They offer a path; they show us a way. 

Poetry, in particular, is a way into the mystery.  Poems take us into silence and allow us to skirt the guards of our own hearts.  A function of poetry is to integrate the body and spirit and to create wholeness. 

All of us seeking to create change need to bring art and poetry into our work.

Image: Tigeron


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