Those of you who read the last post will remember that I began with a quote by John Keats. He said that the poet has no identity, that he is the least poetical of creatures. This is the case when he first begins to write poetry. His task is to be what he is not yet but could become. His task is to become the invisible that he can express but cannot yet be. Expression can lead to Being. He must be what he is not now; He must be what he really is. When he is that, there will be no need to express it. The greatest poet does not write a word. Other people take down what he says, for he has lost the need to record that he is and who he is. He only needs to record it when he is not yet it and writes as a means to become it, and to record the distance between how he is at present and who he could become, which is who he truly is.
Some say that who we are can only be discerned in the present. I cannot verify this belief in my experience. Who we are at this moment can only be discerned in the present, of course. But is who we are in this moment who we truly are? The poet, at present, is no one. He has no identity, as Keats makes clear. He strives to have an identity, but only if that identity encompasses his whole person, if it is a complete identity. As one who writes poetry, he must go through everything. He must be divided, he must suffer, undergo all sorts of humiliations, but above all he must not accept the designation of ‘Poet,’ for that would give him an identity, which he does not have. People when they look at him or read his work and think ‘Poet’ would be thinking of their own ideas of ‘Poet’ and so would not see him as he is. If he sees this and continues to allow it, he also will begin to see himself as he is not, as they see him. He is the poet; he writes poetry. That is his identity; that is who he is.
But what does this mean? He does not know who he is. Only those who do not know who they are can write poetry. But now he is a poet; that is who they say he is. That is who he is and he knows it. Bob Dylan, who everyone labeled ‘Poet’ from the very beginning said in an interview, “A poet is anybody who wouldn’t call himself a poet.”
It makes little sense for someone who writes poetry to have that poetry published, to have his poems critiqued by people who already know, or at least think they know, who they are. A poem can only be read truly by those who truly do not know who they are. Only the ones who do not know are able to understand another who also does not know. A man who does not know who he is does not necessarily write poetry. Writing becomes necessary according to the intensity of suffering that having no identity and not being whole entails. The more suffering, the more dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, the more necessary it is to write. Colin Wilson writes, “Language is the natural medium for self-analysis; the idea of ‘a way back to himself’ cannot be expressed in any other medium.” Writing is the way back to oneself, to unity, away from self-division. If someone is divided but neither knows nor cares, why should that person be concerned with the search for self and wholeness, a search in which the seeker will remain in a constant state of tension and angst, will feel alienated from others, and will be unable to find peace or rest? But the solitary, the one who knows and cares about his self-division, does not seek peace or rest. He knows that he will find neither as long as he stays divided. Peace may come for a time, but it cannot be sought.
The more the solitary writes, the deeper he goes into the search for self and wholeness, the less present he becomes to the surface. It is almost as if he exists only in solitude. Amongst people he might as well not exist. This is because with others he is especially aware of his lack of identity, since most all communication with others comes from identity, what is called ‘personality.’ For one who knows he has no identity, what can he say? Someone who is perceptive about surfaces may get the distinct impression, “This person does not exist.” Someone who is perceptive to depth may feel there is much more and will be drawn to the unseen in that person.
The unseen in the solitary person is really the whole person, for almost everything about him is unseen. So the one perceptive to depth will intuitively understand the other’s essence, though the personality on the surface appears non-existent. The less false personality, the truer to essence. But there can be a personality type that is proud of its lack of falseness, its lack of false personality. Instead of making a false personality out of his lack of false personality, and having some sort of distorted pride in that, the solitary, the one searching for himself, must undergo the suffering inherent in this non-identified state, the humiliation of having no identity to fall back on. It is most important not to alleviate this tension in any superficial way. The only way out is through.
10 thoughts on “More On The Solitary: The Search For Self”
Once again, resonating with all of it. Amazing, the way you have used our some what flimsy container of language to express the profound in such a clear way. I really connected with this:
“But the solitary, the one who knows and cares about his self-division, does not seek peace or rest. He knows that he will find neither as long as he stays divided. Peace may come for a time, but it cannot be sought.”
Also, with the personality that identifies with having no personality as well as the poet who finds no desire in having poetry published. These are all things that have come up for me before. And south more I can relate to including the way in which we partially exist as ideas to each other. Everything is relative rather than true. Thank you for sharing.
I meant…so much more, not south more
And thank you again for reading, and reading with more than your mind. I’m divided on some of these things I’ve written and that you resonated with. I can’t say I have no desire to have my poetry published. I struggle against the part in me that wants to get poetry published because I feel that part is weaker, clamoring for attention and praise. I look at that part with something like pity. It is as if one part of me, the stronger part, more essential part, does the writing, and the weaker, at best inessential and at worst destructive part wants its praise. But the weaker part doesn’t deserve any praise because it doesn’t even write what it wants to be praised for. Then again there are probably some things I write that are written by that weaker part, and the key for me is to discern which part of me is doing the writing. Much of the time I have trouble separating the parts and do not know.
I wish it wasn’t the case that we exist as ideas to each other, but it really is. That is why I can’t stand when people say, ‘Oh, so you’re a Poet.’ Always with a capital letter: ‘Poet.’ And always in that declarative way, as if they somehow understand me now that they have a word that they think encapsulates who I am. The only one who can say he is a poet is someone who is totally unified, which I am far from being. I am far from being, and the poet is. But now I’m sliding into poetic phrases, and who knows which part of me is doing that, so I’ll leave this reply as it is. I appreciate your reading and especially your comments.
Often, when I am writing I have a sense of the aspect of “I” that is moving in me. What you refer to as the weaker aspect is often the one emoting as it is moved from that place. I write to give it a voice, bring it to light and let it speak. Its therapeutic and not always a clear reflection of the idea some might hold about who I am. I find that when I’ve purged it on to the screen or paper, it Iet’s go of me sometimes. At other times I write from the “higher” aspect of me.
We can only know each other through ideas and mental concepts, it’s the way of things…consider that who we be doesn’t even have much to do with our own ideas or mental concepts regarding ourselves and the concept of truth starts to erode.
As far as wondering which part of you is doing the writing, which one is wanting the praise and seeking to be published, etc., I often ruminate on those things as well.
Sometimes, a voice inside of me asks me to ask myself instead, which part of me is the one who cares to know, to decide and which part of me gets to discern or draw conclusions about the weaker and stronger parts. That’s usually about the time I fall asleep 😉
Would you mind if I re-blog your writing??
I promise I won’t call you a poet 🙂
You’re welcome to re-blog my writing if you wish to. I don’t do much in the way of promoting it, but I still would like it to be read by those who seek. And reading your blog I can see how your writing might attract some of those seekers. I know I’ll never have a blog that attracts people by the thousands, and I really wouldn’t want it that way. As long as it attracts a few restless souls.
Exactly what I was thinking…there may be a few readers who would relate to and enjoy 🙂
How do you know when you are through? Nonie
I don’t know Nonie, maybe when you aren’t looking for a way out?
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