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Reflections | Dr. Leighton Ford (Mentoring)

The Witness of Poetry

February 17, 2015

I am reading Milosz’ The Witness of Poetry. In his final chapter (on Hope!) after analyzing the temperament of our civilization, without either despair or facile optimism, he expresses his belief that in the 21st century there will be a radical turning away from the worldview dominated by biology … there will be a new turning back to humanity, “the soul of bygone generations.”

And here he speaks of the adventures of one poet: Cavafy. Whose journey through his own Greek history is also a journey “into his own interior realm.”

Now why am I excited? For one thing it speaks directly to the paper George D passed to us, the essay of the eminent biologist Edward Wilson who is absolutely committed to biology it would seem as any devout Christian has been to the Apostle’s Creed.

However at the closing of his essay Wilson also wonders whether there might be a superintellect, surpassing Einstein, who could reconcile science and religion. He doubts this, but does not deny the persistent questions of our humanness that science is not deep enough to answer.

I posed to George this possibility: that this figure would be a poet! And held out W. Berry as an example.

More: that we need to consider hopefully Chas. Williams’ belief that God is a poet, and we are his poem!

If there is “mystical hope” – who can best tell us about it? the scientist? or the poet?

I am also smiling at Craig’s proposition that a kiss cannot be understood by a mathematical formula, or a scientific description, but only by being experienced.

And: I am remembering that in Saturday Ian McEwan’s scientific surgeon, who has everything neatly in order, is disturbed that day by a burning plane glimpsed in the morning sky. (The surgeon quotes the same passage from Darwin that E. Wilson does in his essay). His life is also invaded by the inevitability of his mother’s decline, and the invasion of his home and violation of his daughter by malicious thugs. How revealing that the attack of the violent invaders is halted by one thing only: his daughter’s reciting of poetry!

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