What are Poets for?

Painting pictures in the mind with words, the poet works by night and by day.  Inspiration may hit him like a freight train, or at other times may be as subtle as a chickadee chirping in the distant woods.  The poet is sensitive and attuned to the workings of the world.  Reading the newspaper daily to keep a pulse of the zeitgeist of the times.  Taking time to meditate and pray to maintain a sense of strength and resolve in the face of the ocean of suffering.  The mind does not always need to process things with words, but when it does do it in as few a lines as possible.  While philosophers will ramble on for hundreds of pages, and scientists will present detailed and measured graphs, poets will answer with a few well placed words.  Take Gary Snyder.  His poem book Turtle Island tells the story of American nature.  One page of facts about American consumption, surrounded by poems recalling the wilds of the American west.  In the face of the industrial machine, Snyder hears the lone wolf’s cry.  His poem For the Children says:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

Is this not the key to life?  Louv states in The Nature Principle of poets:

“…science does have a difficult time defining how we perceive nature.  A few years ago, I worked with a council of neuroscientists, experts on childhood development of brain architecture.  When asked how the natural world itself affects brain development, they would usually draw a blank.  “How do you define nature?” they asked, rhetorically.  However, these same scientists simulate “natural conditions” in their labs, for control groups.  A friend of mine likes to say that nature is anything molecular, “including a guy drinking beer in a trailer park and a debutante drinking highballs in Manhattan.”  Technically, he’s right.  For the most part, we’ve left the definition of nature up to the philosophers and poets.  Gary Snyder, one of our finest contemporary poets, has written that we attach two meanings to the word, which comes from the Latin roots natura and nasci, both of which suggest birth.

Here’s my definition of nature: Human beings exist in nature anywhere they experience meaningful kinship with other species.”

For a time in my life I created scientific work.  At other times, I poured through German philosophy and Christian theology looking for the meaning of life.  These types of knowing all have their place in the grand scheme of things.  As I approach a wilderness pilgrimage on the Appalachian Trail, the ways that I have found to experience nature have hit the poetic.  Now I am no Snyder, but I can appreciate the act of written meditation via methods that I first encountered in seminary described in this post from August 2, 2013.  On the trail one exercise for meditation will be, “Take any common word such as “tree” or “water.”  Writing it down on a piece of paper.  Now write down the first word that comes to mind in association with it, and immediately go back to your original word.  Now another word will come to mind.  Write it down and again go back at once to your starting point.  Do this for as long as word associations come to mind.  When they cease just stay with your original word.  Hold it in your mind.  Concentrate upon it, without any thoughts about it.  Continue for as long as feels comfortable.” (The Meditation Handbook: The Practical Guide to Eastern and Western Meditation Techniques, David Fontana)

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InnerLight Enlightenment by Dr. William Kaya Erbil is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

About kayaerbil

I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is moving into the area of working on developing appropriate technology for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal is to use simple and effective designs to empower people to live better lives. Currently, I am working with Native Americans on Pine Ridge, the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I am working with a Native owned and run solar energy company. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made of locally derived resources, earth from the reservation. The blocks are naturally thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. A side project while in Pine Ridge is a solar computer. I hope to learn about blockchain encryption software for building microgrids. In addition, it is an immediate interest of mine to involve local youth in technology education.
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