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Suggestive Social Science?!

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“But if you’re like most people—and social science suggests that you and I are like most people—…”

The Timely Science of Successful Resolutions
—Daniel H. Pink (WSJ 12/30-31/2017 C1)

Say what?! Social science suggests what??!

Run that by me again, please…

Written by macheide

30 December 2017 at 11:35 am

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Women’s Poetry?

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Women’s Poetry?

Undoubtedly gender does play an important part in the making of any art, but art is art and to separate writings, paintings, musical compositions, etc., into two sexes is to emphasize values in them that are not art.

— Elizabeth Bishop, 8 June 1977

 

That quote comes to me courtesy of The Faber Book of 20th Century Women’s Poetry, which I am currently reading, thanks to the first of the two renewals I’m permitted for borrowing the book from our county’s library system. Editor Fleur Adcock quotes Bishop to open that poet’s section of the anthology, observing, “Elizabeth Bishop’s executor has requested us to record the fact that the poet objected on principle to appearing in a women’s anthology for the following reason, which she stated in a letter dated 8 June, 1977….” Oh. So over your objections, which we choose not to respect, we’ll make you appear anyway, no reason given for why we do so. (Like, if Bishop were to object strongly enough, how could copyright permission even be granted to this anthology, since Bishop is not like Frost or Yeats, not yet having crossed the line into the public domain?)

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Written by macheide

27 July 2014 at 8:32 am

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Of Math and Metaphor

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I would be willing to throw away everything else but that: enthusiasm tamed by metaphor.

— Robert Frost, “Education by Poetry”

My best poetry prof and my best math prof well understood what often generated open amusement among my college friends: how my intense interest in math crossed wires with my obsessions over poetry. Not merely the double major of English and mathematics in which I got my degree, but how easily I merged those two into one. Math to them was rigid logic and dry formula and exacting number; poetry to them was dreamy allusion and raw beauty and boundless imagination. My math prof knew poetry way better than that, and my poetry prof knew math way better than that, so they taught well and guided me into deeper and fuller knowledge and expertise and understanding.

Enthusiasm, yes, that wild unknown that Rimbaud spoke of, Frost’s “sunset raving” as ongoing as the ever-setting sun! And taming that recalls the Little Prince’s fox, not “owned by” or “controlled by” or any of the other mean slurs by armchair critics who have never known the intimacy of bright spark touching soft flesh, but “tamed by” with a familiarity that could as well been expressed as “metaphor tamed by enthusiasm.”

And metaphor! Ah, sweet metaphor, the very word of creativity itself. Is it really so surprising that my favorite and easiest math courses involved complex variables (crossing the real with the imaginary), flew through Laplace transforms, dreamt so strangely through number theory (think Gödel), excelled at abstract algebra? Abstract algebra, there’s one for the uninformed masses to misread: isn’t abstraction supposed to be at odds with concrete, rigid algebra? No, not at all, and at no other college math course did I fly as high and as far as easily as I did with abstract algebra, which involves extension of algebraic concepts arising from the real number system to other, more generalized systems. Ummmm, as in what poetry knows and loves as metaphor, people. Math and poetry really do perform the same services and serve the same ends, people.

And like as mathematics is recognized as the language of all science, not just of math itself but also of physics and of chemistry and of biology and of astronomy and of all science, so too is metaphor the language of all art, not just of poetry but of art and of music and of dance and of all art. Like as the supposed scientist who ignores his math will never know his own science well enough to really discover or to experiment or to teach, because he does so without his language of math, so too is the artist or musician who disrespects metaphor unable to truly create or share or teach, because he does so without his language of metaphor. Think there’s anyone so unique as to have ever done their science well without having an appreciation of math or created any good art or music without respecting metaphor? Yeah, well, that’s like the heroin addict thinking he’s going to be the one exception to be successful at finding nirvana through his needle; as in, no such exception exists. As science breathes math, likewise art breathes metaphor.

Both my math and poetry college profs taught this, and both practiced what they taught in their own professions. Which was what made them so good at what they did, so effective at what they taught. And each one experienced their own and the other’s sunset raving, and each one spoke and heard the other’s language. Math and poetry are really not so separate. And I have always been willing to know no other teacher but one who is willing to throw away everything else but that: enthusiasm taming and tamed by metaphor.

//www.internetbumperstickers.com] - quotated

Written by macheide

22 July 2014 at 5:49 am

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From There On the Sad Height

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Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.

Socrates

Funny, I never knew the ancient Greek philosopher had so close a familiarity with the kids of out current generation. Uh, not. And count on it, Socrates’ dad said exactly the same thing about young Soc.

This past weekend, the leader of a discussion group stated that one of the things a son wants most is his father’s acceptance and respect. To which one of the most esteemed members of the group had a strongly differing opinion, to the effect that that rule doesn’t apply to most kids today, that the favor of parents had lost all value under the assault of values spread by the internet, television and other media, schools, and from just about every other direction fear can pound from. To which I ventured my strongly differing opinion to his strongly differing opinion.

I know my father said exactly the same things about my generation, and I’m sure I did everything to convince him he was right. But did I not still crave his approval? and do I not still miss it to this day, even with the responsibility that I myself bear for the schism he and I never resolved?

One of the questions we discussed this past Wednesday asked, “What is the most impactful [sic] thing your father ever told you? (Even if it was not positive, sharing shows how important this is for you.)” I didn’t venture to share. Excuses include: not enough time; didn’t want to get into it; it’s over and done and needn’t get dragged out all over again. Excuses, excuses. Over 45 years after it was spoken, one single word my father said to me still hurts as much as if he had punched me square in the face five seconds ago. Sharing shows how important this is for me? OK then.

When I was 12 years old, my father prohibited me from having a completely innocent friendship with my dearest childhood friend. When I begged to know why, he couldn’t figure out any better way to enforce his discipline than to tell me that she would grow up to be a “whore.”

I was so innocent, at the time I didn’t even know what the word meant. All I knew was the hatred in his mouth voicing the word. Later, I tried to look up the word in my dictionary. Still too clueless to know what my father had said, I probed through the H section until I briefly thought my father had been calling my friend a “horror.” Sitting there in tears, something suddenly came to me, and I turned to the W section . . . and have hated my father ever since. I barely spoke a single word to him the rest of my youth. And what few occasions we have had for contact since then have never lasted past polite exchanges that never get followed up on.

When I died last September, Susan asked if I wanted my father contacted. I said no. And I did mean no. He doesn’t have to know whether I choose to go or stay.

And even so, that doesn’t mean that his blessing would not have meant more to me than his curse has done. Discussing it further later last Wednesday night, Susan pointed back to Esau, who lost the blessing of his father Isaac, when his brother Jacob masqueraded as his hairy brother to bring their dying father one of his last meals. That blessing means something real, tangible, whether it is won by the latest generation’s Jacob or lost by the current generation’s Esau. That blessing means something promising, precious, whether in Socrates’ day or in our own. No matter how rebellious or incorrigible the son, the blessing or the curse of the father matters.

The son may be free enough to not need or want the father’s permission. The son may be of his own mind enough to not care for or listen to the father’s counsel. The son may disagree with the father or even have become an enemy of the father. Yet just as David will still always be mourning Absolom’s death, so too always will the son find strength in his father’s blessing or poison in his father’s curse.

Now I have never had a son of my own to be able to say. As deeply as I have been favored by God to have been a part of two families that have seen six step-children through to their adult lives, at best I can only confirm the damage done to the first three by the void of their fathers’ blessing being absent, and the utterly amazing positive power that the father’s blessing has meant to the second three.

Were I to have a man of the next generation after mine to pass the torch to, he would not hear the words I heard from my father. He would hear only the deepest, most sincere words of acceptance, respect, honor and praise. With no kudos for me for wanting to have the chance to do so. But simply because it’s right.

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Written by macheide

27 April 2012 at 3:24 pm

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Wisdom of an Old Fool

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Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.

Plato

So, it’s no accident that those who don’t bother to listen to anything I might open my mouth to voice happen to be the same ones who think I have nothing remotely wise to say, while those who think me a fool never care to hear me anyway since they think I’m doing nothing more than merely saying something. Every now and then, that even happens to be the same person thinking both those things. Meh.

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Written by macheide

21 March 2012 at 3:16 pm

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