Sometimes one makes a brilliant response to a blog post somewhere in the ether—a comment that deserves a life outside that comment stream. This is not one of those. Nevertheless, because the issue is so interesting (at least to me), I’m reposting my comment here.
This is in response to a thought-provoking post by Chris Ransick, which you’ll need to read for this to make sense.
This is a fascinating post, Chris. I would just throw into the mix the idea that perception isn’t everything. Think of Joseph Campbell, in Primitive Mythology (the first volume in his Masks of God tetralogy), and his avenue into discussing Jung’s archetypes that begins with “inherited images,” what biologists call “innate releasing mechanisms”. He writes:
Chicks with their eggshells still adhering to their tails dart for cover when a hawk flies overhead, but not when the bird is a gull or duck, heron or pigeon. Furthermore, if the wooden model of a hawk is drawn over their coop on a wire, they react as though it were alive—unless it be drawn backward, when there is no response.Here we have an extremely precise image—never seen before, yet recognized with reference not merely to its form but to its form in motion, and linked, furthermore, to an immediate, un-planned, unlearned, and even unintended system of appropriate action: flight, to cover. The image of the inherited enemy is al-ready sleeping in the nervous system, and along with it the well-proven reaction. Furthermore, even if all the hawks in the world were to vanish, their image would still sleep in the soul of the chick—never to be roused, however, unless by some accident of art; for example, a repetition of the clever experiment of the wooden hawk on a wire. With that (for a certain number of generations, at any rate) the obsolete reaction of the flight to cover would recur; and, unless we knew about the earlier danger of hawks to chicks, we should find the sudden eruption difficult to explain.All I mean to say is that it’s possible we never perceive “what’s there.” I was reading the other day that the colors of the world—your zinnia’s colors, for example—don’t really exist “in the world”; only various wavelengths of light exist. These light wavelengths are not colored, but our brains convert them to perceptions of color. In other words, color is something that our brain perceives, and not every person or every animal shares the same color view of the world. If our brains were not able to convert these wavelengths into color perceptions, we would see the world “as it is”—in shades of gray. That gray world is dasein—not somewhere any of us wants to live, I think!I guess what I’m wondering aloud, stumbling toward, is a question. Is poetry not a kind of quarrel with or critique of dasein? Or maybe I’m overcomplicating the whole damn thing….
Let me answer that last question of mine: No, I’m not overcomplicating the issue; our physical existence overcomplicates it. And what’s truly mind-boggling is that every creature undoubtedly experiences similar existential complications. Blake puts it this way (at the end of “A Memorable Fancy”):
How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?
We know that the world is vaster than we can imagine, and yet the purpose of imagination (it seems to me) is to open avenues for us to follow into that world. Imagination takes us beyond the constrictions of everyday perception, beyond Heidegger’s dasein even (if I understand dasein correctly), into the Imaginal.
Of course, I’ve discussed all this here before. But it never hurts to wander back over traveled ground….