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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Jung quoteMy interest in Jung’s principal theories of psychology and myth stems from an initial curiosity about and fascination with T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Two epigraphs in ancient Greek from Heraclitus of Ephesus introduce the collection. One of the two reads as follows:

 “The way upward and the way downward are the same.”

 What fascinates me is the notion that despite the logical (in a scientific sense) impossibility of two opposites existing at the same time, an inherent truth, nevertheless, exists. Much of Eliot’s poem attempts to extract a sense of truth by confronting the wisdom of paradox. I don’t pretend to have any scholarly understanding of what Eliot is trying to “say”—I am a true believer of the idea that poems do not necessarily have to “say” anything; they just are— in these poems; in fact, without Joe Gilde’s marginalia, I would have little access to any understanding at all. The best I can hope for is an appreciation for specific lines in the work that hold a particular fascination for me. Just for a brief example, I offer the following from “Burnt Norton,” no. 1 of the Four Quartets:

Time present I recognize the misapprehension we have of time. We lack either the willingness or the spiritual strength to understand  any but the narrow definitions of time. By this I mean time is ether past or future—what has happened or what will happen. But what if we at least acknowledge the possibility that time is an illusion? My amateurish attempt describes Eliot’s syllogism is as follows:

Time present 2In other words time is both there and not there, and to attempt to comprehend time without a broader understanding is equivalent to—to paraphrase an Alan Watts metaphor—trying to grab a hold of moving water in a stream. Just as our inability to grab moving water does not disprove that water moves, so also our inability to grab a hold of time does not disprove the existence of time. The analogy that water, in this case, is like time works. The power of a moving river, like time, is “eternally present.” The river begins somewhere, though without maps we don’t know exactly where. Like time, the river “ends” somewhere, though we don’t know exactly where it ends. Because the water moves in a very specific direction—again like time because time does not “flow” backwards—we know or sense that it is going somewhere.

Further, we are all taught at an early age that if we are caught in a powerful current, we must not resist or defy the power of that current. Instead, to conserve our energy, we let it carry us along until, at the most opportune time, we can safely make our way to the shore and pull ourselves out. Like the powerful current of a river, we must not resist the powerful pull of time, must not get caught up in identifying the past and the future (though, like the river, we cannot reject the fact that “being a river” includes the source and the destination), and recognize that they, past and future, are the same. Just as the “passing” of time is a part of the whole of time, so a river’s current is a part of the whole of the river. The river cannot exist without its current and time cannot exist without its passing, cannot exist without its “past” and “future.”Time present 3The paradox of time occurs when we attempt to become more aware, more “conscious” of those ordinary yet significant moments of our lives. If we are controlled by time, we lose those “moments in the rose-garden.” We can live in the moment only if we are not “conscious” of time, but “only in time can the moment” be remembered. The paradox? “Only through time time is conquered.” 

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