Another freakish, brief summer storm swept through–this time bringing wind, fog, downpours, and hail. Not a gardener’s favorite weather system under any circumstances. Some years ago, a June 9 hailstorm literally decimated (reduced by 10%…though I think it was more like 25%) my gardens and produced the mammatus cloudforms that show up on my “About” page. Yesterday’s hailstorm was–thankfully–not as damaging. Most of the plants will recover fairly rapidly, I think.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to educate myself a bit more on the history of phenomenology as it relates to poetry, art, and poetics by reading a bit of Martin Heidegger. This is a backwards chronology, but I’m not feeling ready to take up Husserl yet. Heidegger’s also problematic because of his early embrace of the Nazi party (he resigned early, too, in 1938, but never made a full repudiation). I understand that great thinkers can nonetheless be very flawed human beings. Michael Wheeler’s thorough essay in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy touches on some of the contradictions and covers Heidegger’s major work. But I am reading Hofstadter’s translation of “Poetry, Language, Thought” and six other shorter essays, such as “What Are Poets For?” and “The Origin of a Work of Art.” Actually, it is hard to consider the first text as an essay. It’s more like a poem in aphorisms. An excerpt:
When through a rent in the rain-clouded
sky a ray of sun suddenly glides
over the gloom of the meadows . . . .
We never come to thoughts. They come
That is the proper hour of discourse.
Discourse cheers us to companionable
reflection. Such reflection neither
parades polemical opinions nor does it
tolerate complaisant agreement. The sail
of thinking keeps trimmed hard to the
wind of the matter.
From such companionship a few perhaps
may rise to be journeymen in the
craft of thinking. So that one of them,
unforeseen, may become a master.
Almost Confucian, no?
Later in his life, Heidegger moved on from his earlier philosophizing on the ontology of being (he pointed out the need to define “exist” as a premise in any such inquiry) and began to suggest that art exists within the materials/tools of the artist as well as within the artist’s being and abilities, all in a perhaps simultaneous collection of conditions. Wheeler says, “poiesis is to be understood as a process of gathering together and fashioning natural materials in such a way that the human project in which they figure is in a deep harmony with, indeed reveals—or as Heidegger sometimes says when discussing poiesis, brings forth—the essence of those materials and any natural environment in which they are set.”
Heidegger writes, for example, that “a true cabinetmaker…makes himself answer and respond above all to the different kinds of wood and to the shapes slumbering within wood—to wood as it enters into man’s dwelling with all the hidden riches of its essence. In fact, this relatedness to wood is what maintains the whole craft. Without that relatedness, the craft will never be anything but empty busywork…” Wheeler calls this manifestation of the art within the materials (which the artist must understand in order to use her talents and tools to bring forth) a “process of revealing.” Kin, I suppose, to the words often attributed to Michelangelo: I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
Art, gardens, weather, poetry, the craft of thinking…all processes of revealing and transformation. “We never come to thoughts. They come to us.”