Friday, May 8, 2015

Emerson's Prudence, Men-with-Clowns & Me.

(dupe of Facebook post)

In my sometimes perhaps untoward outpourings on Facebook - you know, the exegeses and pronouncements and spills of what are for me a new kind of prose -- I've been exploring, as I think I put it here once, what are for me experiments in form - which maybe amount to a sort of calisthenics in prep for the book I envision writing when I move to my new home. Facebook has become a kind of sweet strange platform for me to try these out in -- it invites certain kinds of fascinatingly public intimacy, I suppose - which I find an alluring challenge. Whatever writing I'm pulled to doing these days is not like a letter, it's not like nonfiction books I've written, it's not like fiction I've written, it's not like poetry I've written - it's a whole other creature. 

Anyway, Reed, yesterday, as is his wont, introduced me yet again to more of the most beautiful writing I've encountered: in this case, Emerson's essay on "Prudence" -- which takes my breath away. It also suggests something of what I'd like to do. That is, something at the heart of whatever new amphibious mammal (sort of like a porpoise) my writing seems to want to be. (I don't know why I'm invoking my two man-with-clown drawings, but they seemed to want to accompany this. I was looking for a drawing I once did of a porpoise and couldn't find it, but I did find these guys, and they insisted on attaching themselves hereon. Maybe the clown is the thing to bring to greater life - the thing I'm hoping to bring to greater life. To conjure silliness out of serious flesh, for one thing. Who knows.)

Here's the beginning of Emerson's essay, followed by a link to the whole thing. 

ESSAY VII Prudence

What right have I to write ont of the negative sort? My
prudence consists in avoiding and going without, not in the inventing
of means and methods, not in adroit steering, not in gentle
repairing. I have no skill to make money spend well, no genius in my
economy, and whoever sees my garden discovers that I must have some
other garden. Yet I love facts, and hate lubricity, and people
without perception. Then I have the same title to write on prudence,
that I have to write on poetry or holiness. We write from aspiration
and antagonism, as well as from experience. We paint those qualities
which we do not possess. The poet admires the man of energy and
tactics; the merchant breeds his son for the church or the bar: and
where a man is not vain and egotistic, you shall find what he has not
by his praise. Moreover, it would be hardly honest in me not to
balance these fine lyric words of Love and Friendship with words of
coarser sound, and, whilst my debt to my senses is real and constant,
not to own it in passing. 

Prudence is the virtue of the senses. It is the science of
appearances. It is the outmost action of the inward life. It is God
taking thought for oxen. It moves matter after the laws of matter.
It is content to seek health of body by complying with physical
conditions, and health of mind by the laws of the intellect.

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