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the vigilance of a specific and strict discipline
MEANING AS A GUIDE to our work begs for the question, "What are we thinking for?"
What do we want? To what kind of life our work belongs? Whom are we talking to? Which part of us or of others our thoughts gaze upon? Is that part deep enough to claim attention? Even if we just need to meet the demands of the school, we can try to see these demands as an opportunity to increase our inner awareness and enhance our life.
Are there illusions that should be overcome in order for clear thinking to appear and how can an illusion be identified, whether sentimental or rational? As Kierkegaard says ("My work as an author"), even in a dialogue, and even when a person understands the illusions of the other, it is very difficult for the other to see them and overcome them. Any kind of external help needs a previous personal preparation, without which no one can help, (- see Rilke's "Letter to a young poet"). For Emerson, "no man can learn what he has not preparation for learning, however near to his eyes is the object" (-see, "Reading and writing as self-knowledge").
A correct advice is useful only the right moment and spoken in the right way, which is rarely the case, so that to go into oneself as deeply as possible, to recognise the spring of thoughts, to weigh a thought in the light of the most precious of the personal experiences, becomes the safest way to worthy judgments. And it is the safest for one to weigh a thought by means of any richness of the time past, than by means of a simple calculation, or a wish and an expectation, no matter how beautiful this latter might seem, because a hope by definition is not proved, while spiritual progress does not destroy a previous step, even when it goes beyond of it.
Exploring the Fiction
Give us essays that won't tell what Dickens or Salinger or anyone believes, instead of, or in accordance with, what others believe : try to give to their views a second birth into your heart and into your own work - and therefrom beyond yourself. Try for an essay that won't just make us learn something, but it will make us love or hate you.
Unless you treat literature like a means, or an unavoidable trial, for graduation, you owe a confession more than an essay. Try to speak out the valuable and the worthy, and do not write anything at all, until you have found it valuable and worthy. You don't write about Dickens or anyone, you write about how you and me and your personal friends and enemies live or ought to live. We won't care about Dickens' or anyone's views, if those views won't alter your life while you discover them. In fact, Dickens will remain totally unknown to us, until the day you discover him and talk to us about him talking about yourself.
Therefore, get personally involved while reading and writing. Tell us about David or Agnes or the God-beloved Aunt, tell us about Holden or Tom, about the ones that you love and about the ones that you hate, - and if you do that, then you will be closer to your favorite authors, even more than their own work is close to them, because your intimacy will be beyond any work.
Especially where experience is missing, there is a need of a certain discipline. See what Plato says on some aspects of that discipline, how any object, - however still, remote and separated might seem, - comes from or leads to certain influences and effects, so that instead of an object there appears in its place a crossroad of actions. What kind of actions and how many? Can we discern all the dimensions of its existence, in order for its nature and certainty to emerge? In what ways this object can become known? Are there opposite or different ways? Are there other people or books that can be of some help? Are there similar objects?
Thoughts can have physical/biological effects, which give signs of the value of thinking. Without equanimity a valid judgment is almost impossible. We have to stop thinking and to resume in the presence of clarity. See what Emerson writes (in "The difference between persons is not in wisdom but in art"):
"Every man beholds his human condition with a degree of melancholy. As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man, imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming events."
"But a truth, separated by the intellect, is no longer a subject of destiny. We behold it as a god upraised above care and fear. And so any fact in our life, or any record of our fancies or reflections, disentangled from the web of our unconsciousness, becomes an object impersonal and immortal."
"It is the past restored, but embalmed. A better art than that of Egypt has taken fear and corruption out of it. It is eviscerated of care. It is offered for science. What is addressed to us for contemplation does not threaten us, but makes us intellectual beings".
This does not imply pure rationality, but rather the vigilance of a specific and strict discipline, where memory and will are full of trust in the deep of the soul.
Rilke, Letter to a
Young Poet |
Plato, Whom are
we talking to? |
Kierkegaard, My work as an author
Emerson, Self-knowledge | Gibson - McRury, Discovering one's face | Emerson, We differ in art, not in wisdom