e e cummings and misplaced concreteness
when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circus tent
and everything began
when man determined to destroy
himself he picked the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because.
I read this e e cummings poem 25 years ago and have had it in my memory ever since. It is very complex and even beyond my comprehension on some level. Yet, I love it and it sticks with me and this fact reveals that it has great truth for me. This poem speaks to me.
I will forego the first stanza as that is beyond me. But the second stanza deals with mankind’s fallenness, his sinfulness, his bondage to the time-space continnum, and his inability/unwillingness to venture out of that domain into freedom. The essence of this 2nd stanza is man’s inability/unwillingness to escape the cause-effect mind-set, very much related to the time-space continuum. And cummings realized that as long as we live there, as long as we are rooted there, we ensconced in a world that will be destroyed as it is an ephemeral world.
I have read enough in quantum physics to understand that scientists see the cause-effect domain as something that is perceptual in nature. In fact, they would say everything is perceptual. Some loudly protest at this point, announcing with vehemence, “Oh no, they are nihilists, saying that nothing is real.!” I don’t think that is necessarily the case and it is certainly not the case with me. It is just that there is a Real beyond that which we take for “real” and that Real is known only by faith. Those who mistake the common-place world, the everyday world, the physical world as “real’ are guilty of the sin of misplaced concreteness,“chasing the shade and letting the Real be.” (John Masefield)
I just can’t wrap my head around this, however. I believe this, and know it intuitively, but cannot understand it completely. But the very desire to “understand it completely” is the fallen mind at work, trying to grasp and own its own spiritual nature as if it is something we can objectively apprehend. But our “spiritual nature” is something we are…one might say “Someone” we are…and not something that we can apprehend.
Now a caveat is very important. I am not advocating rejection of the cause-effect world. That would be lunacy and the attempt to do so would be even more lunatic. I am suggesting that meaning and value is given this cause-effect world when we intuitive recognize and respect…and surrender to…the Real which lies beyond the grasp of our rational mind. And, all we have to do is to learn our own ignorance and recognize the Intelligence that graces this void that we live in, an Intelligence that has visited us on occasion.
I close with an excerpt from “The Habit of Pefection” by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
ELECTED Silence, sing to me And beat upon my whorlèd ear, Pipe me to pastures still and be The music that I care to hear. Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb: 5 It is the shut, the curfew sent From there where all surrenders come Which only makes you eloquent. Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark And find the uncreated light: 10 This ruck and reel which you remark Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.