A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Single Vision Is Deadly

How do you know but every Bird / that cuts the airy way, / Is an immense world of delight, / clos’d by your senses five? WILLIAM BLAKE The Marriage of Heaven and Hell 

Philip Pullman's article on William Blake in last Friday's Guardian is well worth reading. Here are some extracts:

'Sometimes we find a poet, or a painter, or a musician who functions like a key that unlocks a part of ourselves we never knew was there . . .

So it was with me in the early 1960s, at the age of 16, with William Blake . . .

That was 50 years ago. My opinions about many things have come and gone, changed and changed about, since then; I have believed in God, and then disbelieved; I have thought that certain writers and poets were incomparably great, and gradually found them less and less interesting, and finally commonplace; and the reverse has happened, too — I have found wonderful things, unexpected depths of treasure, in books and poems I had no patience to read properly before . . .

But those first impulses of certainty have never forsaken me, though I may have been untrue to them from time to time. Indeed, they have been joined by others, and I expect to go on reading Blake, and learning more, for as long as I live . . .

Single vision is deadly. Those who exalt reason over every other faculty, who condemn those who don’t respond to life with logic but allow themselves to be swayed by emotion, or who maintain that other ways of seeing (the imaginative, the poetic, etc) are fine in their place but the scientific is the only true one, find this position ridiculous. But no symphony, no painting, no poem, no art at all was ever reasoned into existence, and I knew from my youth that art of some kind was going to be the preoccupation of my life. Single vision would not do. I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create. Jerusalem . . .

To get lost in that bleak state when inspiration fails is to find yourself only a step away from an even darker labyrinth, which goes by the entirely inadequate name of depression. A savage deadly heaviness, a desolation of the spirits, an evil gnawing at the very roots of our life: if we’re unlucky enough to feel that, we will know from experience that the opposite of that abominable condition is not happiness, but energy. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. Energy is Eternal Delight. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In its absence, goodness, intellect, beauty — and reason, too — are listless, useless phantoms pining for the blood of life . . .'

A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.
A dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear.
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spider’s enmity.


The whole piece can be found here.


Anonymous said...

There are pink clouds in a blue sky. Can't I delight in them and wonder how they formed?

Scientists are humans who reserve reason and logic for special occasions - mainly when trying to find reliable answers. The rest of the time, we/they revel in the same failings as everyone else.

Amanda Summer said...

Or to take Anonymous' comment one step further - can't one just delight in the pink clouds in a blue sky?

Makes you wonder if Blake's and others' massive talents, such as Joyce's, are due to their ability to manage a fourfold or multilevel vision and hold it long enough to create.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I have never been a Blake fan Robert, but having read your post today, perhaps I should look at him with new eyes.

Incidentally, if you have Joanna's address could you send it to me by e mail (or by Dom's)

George said...

I agree with everything you say about Blake, and he is not alone, of course, in noting that single vision is deadly. Is there anything more important in life that learning how to see properly, learning how to see deeply with both heart and mind into the true nature of things?

Ruth said...

There is enough goodness in these excerpts from Pullman to stimulate thought for a long time.

I relate to the idea that what was once uninteresting has become interesting, and vice versa. If every moment is new, every moment provides transformation. We just fail to see it with new eyes ... new energy.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for all your comments.