Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Dickinson 721

“Nature” is what We see –
The Hill – the Afternoon –
Squirrel – Eclipse – the Bumble bee –
Nay – Nature is Heaven –

“Nature” is what We hear –
The Bobolink – the Sea –
Thunder – the Cricket –
Nay – Nature is Harmony –

“Nature” is what We know –
But have no Art to say –
So impotent our Wisdom is
To Her Sincerity –

In the first two stanzas here, Dickinson refuses to define the natural according to the reductive terms of sense-experience, or in terms of objective products of an empiricist worldview, and defines the natural instead in terms of transcendental qualities: 'Heaven', 'Harmony'. 

In the final stanza she refuses the idea of communication of (our cognition of) the natural, when communication is falsified into rhetoric, worldly speechifying or entanglement in social codes; 'Art'.

She also refuses the idea of cognition of natural truth ('Sincerity'), when cognition is reduced to self-preservatory 'Wisdom', such as academic testing.  

These refusals bear comparison with Buddhist meditative procedures: the natural is always already supernatural, and it is simply a case of detaching ourselves from our thought patterns in order to become enlightened that this is so. Enlightenment is as impermanent and intermittent as our preliminary ability to ground oneself back in the breath; just as the totality of Dickinson's language is broken by hyphens, the phrases recognizing Heaven, Harmony and Sincerity no less than the ironically, dismissively listed objectivities Bobolink and Sea.

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