Refusing to move, being still and discovering the sound of language
When we remain in one place, we manage to hear what words sound like and lose sense of what they mean. This place is not just the physical location but also our mental frame.
Just as our visual perspective depends on where we are located, our philosophical perspective depends on our mental frame. Our mental frame follows the same rules and logic as the perspectival frame. It has a distinct boundary and there are some zones of clear visibility.
Being in the same mental frame is about holding the same query in our mind. This query is like a filter, it activates only certain kinds of material for us. The sensations that do not match the query are discarded.
Spoken language has two layers of information. One is the semantic layer (what a word means) and the other is aural (what a word sounds like). When we construct sentences purely on their ability to mean something, we miss out on the aural layer. Every time we use language in a functional manner, only as a conduit that conveys meaning, we render our world as a dry, unsympathetic place.
Poetic language is achieved only when meaning and sound come together.
When we establish our presence in the same mental frame, we probe deeper into our experience. We have more time and more bandwidth to examine the bitstream of our own experience. What was once only a conduit of meaning, now is a fragment of song.
When we hear ourselves talk, we cannot be bothered by the pressure of making sense.
Making sense is the first excuse that we use to explain our spinelessness. We do not offer any defence of our enjoyment of music. Music is the anti-thesis of functional language. In fact if singing replaces speech entirely, it will be wonderful.
It is difficult to think about the meaning of the lyrics, while the song is being sung. If we like the song, we already know that we like the song and we enjoy it. It is possible for us to assume that if we like the way something sounds then we will also like what it means.
Poetry forces us to not obsess about it’s meaning. If meaning were important, we would just state out aloud. We bother with the artifice of poetry because some meanings can be appreciated only when they are understood accidentally.
I thunder, I slippy, I soluble mass;
Benefitting hipsters, soliloquy among strangers,
Circus, elephants, elastic — I no longer wish you to be a thorn.
The density of what we can mean in a poem is not even comparable to what we can state in prose. In a poem, the conventions of hiding behind social decorum do not work anymore. It is difficult to be polite and be poetic at the same time. It is difficult to make sense and be poetic at the same time. Obscuring is not the point, determining labour as the prerequisite of receiving a package of meaning is the point.
If we talk but the possibility of conversation depends not just on our ability to speak but also on the other person’s capacity to listen. We attribute this phenomenon to affinity at this point. But should attribute it to our desire to engage with poetry.
Song and poetry are used interchangeably here because we deem them to be one and the same. We read words printed on paper aloud within our heads. And that this is when their poetic quality emerges. Songs are sung in ways that the lyrics demand to be sung. Both have sound embedded in the quality of enjoyment that they offer.
Refusing to move and going on a journey seem opposite to each other in meaning. But in a strange way they can actually mean the same thing sometimes. When we refuse to move, when we take it for granted that the landscape we are staring at will not change. At this point, when we begin to stare more intently at that which is in front of us, we begin to travel. Besides the landscape that we do see, we make up a lot more of it in our minds. The trip that starts in our imagination is every bit like an actual episode of travel. Except maybe not involving the displacement of our body.
And this trip allows us to observe the flight, the journey that begins with being still and being present. While we fly, we hear the sound of language and manage to tune out the humdrum of meaning. Visualise this: you are flying high above an inhabited plain and the buss of radio reaches your ears. You can no longer make out the words, all you can hear is the hum of human voices. That is the sound of language. Upon sufficient distancing, that is all that remains.
On the whole, we are talking about the sound of language because eventually we want to talk about abstraction. If only the sound of language is audible and the meaning is blurred, then abstraction is possible. One can be playful with the meaning if one does not even know it.
Abstraction is a brief period of forgetting the meaning.
When this time comes, everything is play. The grid of meaning is somehow universally present to support whatever form and arrangement our play creates. This grid makes a symbolic connection between what our intuitive creation and its multiple paraphrasable meanings. Loose, unintended meanings begin to emerge. Once they emerge, our imagination expends as it practices making sense of them.
The goal of poetry is to expand our imagination.
Our imagination is a living thing. To remain alive, it must remain in perpetual growth. This process is in constant renewal when we keep engaging with poetry. Engagement with poetry is not a choice. We must necessarily do it, if we must remain human. Else we will pass on into being a kind of sub-human. A humanoid who displays certain signs of being a person but otherwise seems to be rather unresponsive.
A capacity for response is a key indicator of life.
Being still is a way we remind ourselves of this fact. Our mind and body find it painful to be still. The nature of life expresses itself through an urge to constantly keep moving. By being still, we respond to our urge. We choose to live when we choose to be still.
When we refuse to move, when we take it for granted that the landscape we are staring at will not change. At this point, when we begin to stare more intently at that which is in front of us, we begin to travel. Besides the landscape that we do see, we make up a lot more of it in our minds. The trip that starts in our imagination is every bit like an actual episode of travel.
fighting for the slimmest chance,
beginning to believe that we are not adjacent,
to the flute, to the wind-pipe and to the chorus -
Although the fruits of abstraction are great, the effort required in order to abstract a reality articulated in plain-fact terms is too great to be considered casually.