Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Robert's Friend And Our Human Notes

In the comment section under the previous post, I learned that Robert lost his friend; a friend who encountered suffering so acutely, that ending his life felt more viable than living.

Perhaps this would be an appropriate time for me to take a moment to clarify what this blog is about, and why I'm here writing and hoping to engender a dialog with you.

I have found the life of being human, utterly profound. For whatever reason, or however it came about, it seems that I've always been able to see through the "apparent" into what we might call, the True and Real: that level of reality that can't be reduced to algorithms or dogma, but which we try to approach with concepts like Beauty, Elegance, Love, Life and God. I'm not claiming any special intelligence or privilege to some secret knowledge (I don't have either); basically put- like you, I live with an inclination that shapes one's pursuits. While your's might be in the field of science or business or theater and the like- my inclination has pushed me toward comprehending the experience of being human beyond our immediate contexts of a culture: I seek to comprehend our being human in the context of the Cosmos itself.

I admitted to a lack of any special intelligence. Maybe if I had some, I could write more brilliantly and precisely toward the Profundity I so readily see. Or maybe the problem lies in the Profundity: there seems to be something innate to it that escapes- even squirts- out of any grasp that aims to "contain" or "bottle" it; Profundity eludes even the looser grasps of the statistical mechanics chemists use to navigate an environment at the quantum level.

The Profundity I see, begs us to leave the frameworks of physics and enter into, once again, the frameworks of the poetic: not to replace the physic but to take a place along side it.

Physics counts on the power to denote. Poetics on the other hand, rely on the power to connote. We need this power of connotation, not because we lack some aptitude, we need it because there are fields of reality that disappear or are distorted by the act denoting them. Often times, these are the things that exist beyond our grasp of formula- like Beauty. Like Human Being.

By chance, in joining a group of new acquaintances for some beers last year, I was seated across from a composer. I learned something interesting from him that I think fits here: he explained to me that were it not for something called "overtones," a note of C would sound the same regardless of the instrument; it's the properties of overtones that lets a denoted C sound like a violin.

What is the reality of Physic's concept of entanglement? I read Robert's report, not knowing either Robert or his friend; I've had to fight back tears as I encountered Profundity through Robert, who I only knew existed since this morning after reading his comment. And once more, though I don't know Robert's friend, I am convinced that his suffering could never be denoted; not even by himself. Our sufferings and our joys are encountered in the connotations- the overtones that make each of us sound so unique to each other.

In developing together, our sense of what it is to be religious then, we have to be committed to making a place for the Poetic: the Profundity accessible to human intelligence by way of Grace-instead of by ways which can be rendered by dogma, or any other attempt to reduce being human, to formulas that can only denote.


  1. I think one of the fundamental differences between connotation and denotation in the human experience is the acknowledgement of the divine, or something greater than the individual himself.

    I'm getting an image in my mind as I digest the ideas of your post. I am picturing an hourglass shape, and this represents, on a vertical axis, increasing complexity or potential. Human beings reside at the waist of this form.

    The upper part of the hourglass represents the sum of consciousness - all human ideas that exist and also - the source that is ultimately responsible for our mental growth. The upper part of the hourglass is boundless. I see it as an expanse that contains modules of language, culture, ideas, etc.

    We are the valve through which this potential flows. In the process of connoting, we draw from the expanse above, and in denoting, we work from ourselves down - the lower part of the hourglass - which is finite.

    Another way I might address this analogy is that working from ourselves downward requires a linear thought process, whereas working through the greater connotation of the upper portion requires a more holistic, "web" thought process.

    This analogy isn't perfect, but hopefully it is useful in illustrating the limitations of relying on denotative thinking alone.

    I hope I interpreted your post correctly, let me know if not!

  2. Excellent Stephen! Wait until we get to talking about the creative force of metaphor- they're not just for English majors :)