Stanley Kunitz on Reason’s Limits

The lunacy of reason unchecked is one of my concerns, owing in part to the fact that mine has gone decades trying to remain “unchecked.” But reality always wins out in the end and reason, like all human contrivance, has to meet its limits. Stanley Kunitz addresses this issue in the following poem, “Organic Bloom,” in which he declares the life always escapes “closed reason” and notes in conclusion that those who fail to learn this are making a perilous mistake. This is true for individuals and for groups. Remember my oft-quoted note from Goethe, “They call it reason, using light celestial, just to outdo the beasts in being bestial.”

By Stanley Kunitz

The brain constructs its systems to enclose
The steady paradox of thought and sense;
Momentously its tissued meaning grows
To solve and integrate experience.
But life escapes closed reason. We explain
Our chaos into cosmos, cell by cell,
Only to learn of some insidious pain
Beyond the limits of our charted hell,
A guilt not mentioned in our prayers, a sin
Conceived against the self. So, vast and vaster
The plasmic circles of gray discipline
Spread outward to include each new disaster.
Enormous floats the brain’s organic bloom
Till, bursting like a fruit, it scatters doom.


6 thoughts on “Stanley Kunitz on Reason’s Limits

  1. rihaansh

    “They call it reason, using light celestial, just to outdo the beasts in being bestial.” yes the problem lies there. we justify our reasons. I wonder what it takes to breakthrough this habit.


  2. Pingback: A Poem for Sunday: End of Summer by Stanley Kunitz – the nook at jensan

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