What is poetry?





From 'the Mirror's Messiah' (2009)
Foreword
    Language, in its totality, is the overheard half of a dialogue from which we infer a picture of the world. Or rather- depending on our individual beliefs regarding the inwardness of that inaudible, perhaps ineffable, interlocutor- we infer quite different pictures of the world. Except, we don’t really. Not while we can still talk, so as not to hear; think, so as not to know.
    On this analysis, Scription- considered as an act, wholly gratuitous, highly individual- only rises above the level of a system of decoration, defending against the horror vacui of blank space, to the extent that a shared Language has imposed a particularly punitive World picture- one whose misery is most blighting in intimate, or meaningful, speech- leaving Freedom, henceforth, no other means to inscribe itself save in such self-enfeebling acts of secret rebellion.
    An alternative exists- a sober drunkenness, a vast pastoral economy founded on a rigorous domestication of death, a salutary madness, a triumphant despair- which, however spontaneous its origins, serves but to structure the social sphere as a mimesis of that punitive cosmos Language infers.
     Since- genus irritabile vatum- poets are a touchy tribe- they too have a place-along with the Prophets, Prelates, Pundits- and other assorted Psychopaths- as the natural legislators of the race.
What is poetry?
    Poetry is an artful form of language- or plangent echo of artless self-awe- whose chief charm- and one indefeasible claim to authority- arises in that its burgeoning pride in its own multi-form perfection feeds ever fatter upon the multiplying proofs of its singular fatuity. To savour poetry is, by degrees, to become its ‘created co-creator’- only to diminish thereafter, both in creativity and collaborative aptitude, by its each exponential increment in unfounded self-regard.
Say what?
    Where poetry is systematised, ceremonialised, or presented as a modality of knowledge; to remain within the poem is to remain in ignorance of everything that can be established by empathic reason, observation or dialogue. Such Literature, then, is an illicit Scripture which damns everything not wholly dedicated to its propagation; while, by its riddling similitudes, saving from Death, only the now irredeemably indebted workforce of its yet drearier Hell.
Hunh?
     In polite circles, Poetry is that poison which must masquerade as its own anti-dote in order to more publicly banquet on its ceremonious regurgitation.
Euugh! That’s nasty!
     Briefly, poetry is of the type of all eruptive, arbitrary, power- to which, however, it can only parasitically engraft itself by an all nihilating sycophancy.
Whatever. Later homeboy.  
    Since the owl of Minerva flies by night, it is safe to say that those who consider themselves poets- or those accorded that title by the Muse or Maecenas that a meretricious Age mistakes itself to be- though lost to their lightless lucubrations yet practice what is essentially a didactic art- teaching nothing, it is true, but yielding the comforting illusion that something has been learnt- prolonging thus, not thanklessly we might think, the childhood, or second childhood, of the race.
Bros before Hos!
    But that is only part of the story. If we exclude that species of ‘speaking Truth to Power’- miscalled ‘biting the cock that feeds you’ coz all that is actually nipped off is the turd the Liberal Conscience extrudes to feed the aborted foetuses of its absent minded rapes- Poetry, now, is that form of language which, ever exceeding its author’s intent, not to say understanding, prowls importunately about seeking to put the touch on Hermeneutics- its richer for more domesticable, but only domesticable because prodromally rabid, cousin- thus rendering the latter the perpetual ‘it’ in Hermeticism’s game of tag.
Nose before bros!
    The irony that Hermeneutics, aspiring to the rank of a science, must, by that very act of hubris, thereafter take a historicist turn such that autopoiesis dwindles to its default value as palingenesia- an irony Nietzche illustrates but is untaught by- arises from the school master’s miserable task of misrepresenting the deontic as derivable from the alethic; the dark abysm whose murderous voice- the true Schopenhauerian  principium individuationis-  is Duty, which fulfilled or unfulfilled yet is damnation’s atrocious doom- to be depicted, nonetheless, in accordance with some magpie minded Curriculum Committee’s currently approved casuistry, as but the chiaroscuro of Sufficient Reason’s all illuming Sun.
That’s right beeyatch! I went there!
    Since, in our Appolonian Age of Information, Man’s Dionysian depths must long ago have been levelled by land-fills of alethic ephemera; anything that looks like poetry, anyone who claims to be a poet, can scarce be regarded, prima facie, as other than a pile of shit. Thus, it is not clear why the cultivation of poetry qua poetry- as opposed to poetry as the journalism of the stupid or the politics of the can’t be bothered- should persist, save as an instrument of universal demoralization within the Modern Languages Dept. of Liberal Arts Colleges- to name but the most egregious of extant sycophantic serf-societies- or, bereft of institutional support, as a way of advertising one’s infinite corruptibility only resorted to by those utterly inept at bad faith’s more beguiling forms.
Crores before nose!
    My purpose- an Indglish Ezhutachan forced to get drunk by my own envious Brahmin ego or Iago- in self-publishing this anorexically slim, though, alas!, still adversely selective, volume of verse is to investigate- with your help, gentle reader, critic stern but still gentle reader, always and only with your bi-cephalous help- whether there might not be another type of poetry- neither self-aggrandizingly mantic nor self-absolvingly romantic but sublative of the delusion-schema of both. Such a poetry- whilst still quite worthless from the larger Social stand-point- might nonetheless possess some, if not therapeutic, then perhaps hygienic value, permitting the redeployment of that large class of poetasters, the spectre of Universal education has saddled us with, in a manner less injurious to Language’s inner life.
(Woes before Crores!)
  (Of course- being a merely dynastically Indglish modernist- born of but Shruti’s echo in an eager, Convent School going, girl child’s ear- it may be, my real purpose is to show off my shabdavedi vidya- taking credit for any holy cows slain in the Naimisha forest, though mere ghosts of music, phantasms of metre, tempt my true & aleatory aim.)
What is Indic poetry?
    Briefly, Indic poetry is the search for ‘Adi-Mimamsa’- that originary hermeneutics whose fleeting rediscovery is both poesis and aporia.
Does before Woes!
    The Sage Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, started off, so the story goes, as an inveterate evil-doer- if not a sitting M.L.A- who, taking Mara as his mantra,  set forth on his mission of murder and rapine. However, by and by, Ma-Ra became transposed to Ra-Ma- Lord Ram- and thus, very much against his will, he was saved.
India nice, India good!
    The first shloka ever uttered is said to have burst in spontaneous sorrow (shoka) from his lips when he saw a hunter’s arrow slay one of a pair of love birds amorously conjoined. According to the scholiasts, this couplet- on the face of it a curse upon the hunter- is also a summary of the Ramayana from multiple perspectives stressing the primacy, as its abiding rasa or savour, of vipralambha karuna- the pathos of love-in-separation- which, to my mind, is itself but the breath blinded mirror of parinami vatsalya- the dynamic of maternal affection- of all beings to all beings.
Thoughts of India gimme wood!
    The vexed question of the canonicity of the Uttara Kanda- Lord Ram’s exiling of his wife, Sita, because one of his subjects had expressed doubts about her chastity during her Lankan captivity- is currently theopoetically sublated by seeing it as an expression of the King’s maternal care for his people- rather than the notion that  Ceasar’s wife should be above suspicion- and his fundamental obligation to raise them up to a level equal to himself, even if the only way of so doing is by unjustly inflicting a surpassing injury- one whose pathos they will intensely feel- upon himself. The barber, or dhobi, or whatever, who rebukes his wife, on her return from some perhaps questionable sojourn, saying “I am not Lord Rama that I should simply take you back without doubts or suspicion!’- is uttering a grave indictment against the Social order and the King who presides over it. The essence of Ramrajya- the rule of Lord Rama- is that even the basest of his subjects rise up to a level equal to the ruler and that too by an inward metanoia rather than mere outward mimicry of sacerdotal sanctimony- which, given the self-stunting arrogance it induces, is surely worthy of death, or, in the case of Rishi Shumbhak, ascent to Heaven by less scandalous means.
Prose before Woes!
    Given the recent revival of the demand that Miri and Piri- the roles of Caesar and Christ- coincide, and given, moreover, the notion that the first step towards this involves beating women in the street- it is useful to ponder the seamless integration of the Arab Hubb al Udhri tradition into the vernacular Vipralambha topos- in other words, of Qais ‘Majnoon’- who took the wilderness as his masjid and wild beasts as his qaum- and Lord Rama, getting involved in monkey politics- slaying Vali for taking away Sugriva’s wife.
    Such senseless behaviour shows the uttam purusha, the perfect man, is mad-utterly mad- incurring all manners of sin and moral opprobrium. But that such is the true nature of Kingship, the true epitome of the Spiritual exemplar- even Marxists are too timid to acknowledge.
Rama, Rama kya hai Drama?
    Thus, Lord Rama- crazily imposing the pain of love-in-separation on Himself- did not, wishful thinking aside, actually change Social attitudes towards women. Neither did the actual Banu Udhra tribe- or the Udhri school of poetry- succeed in valorising free choice and monogamy in marriage. On the contrary both served but to confirm ad captum vulgi received truths about gender dimorphism and Love as the ultimate four letter word- at least when it comes to practical matters like marriage.
   No doubt, moral philosophy- even of the most masochistic sort- is yet more prone to deduce the logical necessity of every contemporary injustice, however senselessly inutile, from ever more self-exculpatingly stringent premises of absolute Justice and Equality.
   But then, it is only to an, not autistic, but aesthete’s eye that maiuetics appears more fundamental than mothering; and, as for the notion that poetry is noetic rather than diuretic- well, that’s just taking the piss innit?
Blows before lows!
   What is the madness of the perfect man? It is that, by reason of his singularity, he is a mother with no way of being so.
   As mothers give life by separation and save from death by raising to their own level, so too does the poet-King, the poet-Saint, the poet-God, live a Paradox, a Madness; Sin, nothing but sin and senseless self-laceration.
Yummy Mummies have washboard tummies!
   Concern for equality is the distinguishing feature of maternal vatsalya. Friendship exists, indeed is truest to its own nature, when between unequals. Nor is there any disgrace if the father exceeds the son- indeed, where wealth and social position are heritable, it is considered praiseworthy. However, a mother who raises up offspring to be of lower degree than herself, is a monster and no mother. Vatsalya is not, as is vulgarly supposed, a selfish or narrow impulse- such as that of Kaikeyi when she claims the throne for her son Bharata- rather it is universal and burgeoningly egalitarian. Whether considered ontogenetically or phylogenetically, at least in India, Vatsalya is both root and fruit of Metre, Music and Mathesis.
Doze before prose!
    How is this possible? Surely, the mother can teach only the mother tongue- itself a graded concubine to Power’s Logos- and language’s learned shibboleths serve but to segment Society and permit the surplus extracting price, wage and service provision discrimination of its occulted oligopolists.
Bores before doze!
   Meaning, we might answer, is higher than Language. However, for meaning to be noetic- at least noetic within an Indic Lebenswelt- for meaning to give rise to thought qua thought- as opposed to mere discrimination of circumstance-it would need to be, pace Ramanujan, essentially context free, which in turn gives rise to the evolutionarily adaptive demand that noetic meaning be expressible poetically- the moody mimesis of its unthought known being more valuable than what, to retrace itself, Thought overwrites on the palimpsest- a consideration which might favour the intellectual elaboration of an algorithmic, generative, grammar simply so as to permit semantic compression and liberate the versifier from the chains of contemporary usage- where the same effect would depend on a concatenation of idiolectal inflections. To maximise impact- or rasadhvani- setting up an invisible mirror to condense recursion but also invoke reflexivity- the default persona of the poet most naturally becomes that of the wooer of the vatsalya bearer- the wished for Spouse, Scripture, or Sage. 
    Certainly what Tolkapiyar does for Tamil- what Tiruvalluvar achieves in Venpa- has the effect of establishing a universal generative matrix of intimate, akam, interpenetration; which, whilst changing nothing, nevertheless illumines the dark ocean floor of amniotic conflict with, at the very least, Reciprocity’s feeble phosphorescence.
Kya mushkil mujhe manini manana?
    Panini- an accidental Italian immigrant, according to the Aryan Invasion Theory- wandered the woods and the wilds of ancient Ind hawking an eponymous comestible. Failing to found a fast food franchise, he, in a perhaps pardonable fit of pique, condensed the generative grammar of Classical Sanskrit on the basis of a totalitarianism of the verb. That infinite effability was now anchored in the act, enabled Sanskrit poetry to serve a paradigmatic globalising function in a particularly, semantically and didactically, dense fashion. Indeed, we may well sympathise with the Philosophical philologist who complained that such costive studies, pleasing neither to God nor pulchritudinous women, had rendered him the now but blunt and regretful axe that had so pointlessly laid waste the forest of his mother’s youth.
    Thus, when, in the Vakyapadiyam we read- ‘Abyaasaat pratibhaahetuh shabdah sarvoparaih smritah/ baalaanaam ca tirashcaamca yathaarthapratipaa-dane’ (II.117)- rather than drawing the conclusion that language- that too Bhartrhari’s language!- is the cause of intuition and that its practice makes children, or indeed animals, capable of grasping the essence of what is real- we guess instead that the actual truth the philosopher wishes to utter is that any utterance- even that of the birds or the babbling brook- but only within that maternal forest, as yet unfelled,- becomes meaningful- indeed, infinitely so as fitting every context and filling out every perspective.
 “Yo bitch! Peel my banana!”
    Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, the ritualist’s Mimamsa hermeneutics- recognising ‘apurvata’- uniqueness or novelty- to be a necessary pre-condition for meaning, teetered thereafter, as did the whole Republic of letters, on the brink of a widening Lacus Curtius only Krishna could close.  On the other side of that black hole- not on the other side of the event horizon- or that universal merging of all event horizons brought about by pondus meum amor meus! Gadamerian Hermeneutics collapsing under its own weight – tribal  bards, if not yet a bardic tribe, continued to dramatise the rupture between Epimethean intentionality and Promethean computability- i.e the hiatus valde deflendus between the dark anankastic determinants of action and the blithely alethic- or dogmatically deontological- theories of mind, or mental models of reality, whose only remaining function became that of cancelling meaning, erasing the event, in so far as model and reality coincided, or, since that seldom happened, marking meaning, remarking the event, only in Irony’s richly cross-indexed register.
Gores before boars!
   Taken together, Linguistics’ licensing of infinite polysemy and Heremeneutics’ appreciation that words, to be meaningful, can never refer to the same thing twice, unified all Language- even as an utterance within that very language- by the endless zeugma of its each word operating as verb. Thus was laid the foundation for Theistic Philosophy’s one ungainsayable triumph, that final all fulminating apotheosis of- nomen est numen- that naming which utters the Biblically unnameable in but the utter nonsense of Love’s Biblical knowing.
Roars before bores!  
   A parallel development- wrought not by Grammarians but by the various peripatetic bardic and thespian castes and guilds that took over responsibility for the public performance and transmission of Ind’s epics- was the reformulation of Memory’s Commons in a manner that conserved two types of symmetries- thus privileging and making ubiquitous karma and dharma as regulative concepts. This served both a mnemonic purpose as well as a means of resolving discrepant readings or dissonances dangerous to fellow feeling. Put simply, the bards used a type of double entry book keeping such that every event, character, bit of dialogue, or magical weapon had its dual somewhere else in the canon. This meant that infirmities of memory could be repaired by a comparison with the dual.
Which is important- why?
   ‘Creative Accounting’ is a tautology; ‘Creative Writing’ an oxymoron.
Sores before roars!
     Noether’s theorem tells us that, for non-dissipative systems, the presence of a symmetry is evidence for a conservation law or conserved property. My claim is that, at least, for those castes tasked with reproducing the Epics- Meaning was not- as it is with us power-elite or wannabe power-elite gobshites- a capriciously wandering set but rather a rational map on the Riemann sphere- which, by merely adding a point at infinity to the quotidian axes of real and imaginary, most economically opens the Lebenswelt’s dynamics to the possibilities of a communal Theopoiesis.
    That the production and transmission of our Itihasa was predicated not on a particular class or caste gaining power’s outward show but, rather, on perfecting its inward ethos- deepening detachment from what but oppresses and passes away, though, in the process, its own standard of living  erodes- means that the hubris of a historicist hermeneutics is sheer vandalism here.
Doors before spores!
      What then, if not instruments of social oppression, are karma and dharma?
   Karma is a law of causation that operates on the vertical dimension of time giving coherence and meaning to individual life experiences.
    Dharma, operating horizontally across Social space, gives coherence and meaning to our species life, so to speak.
Snores before doors!
    However, it would be a mistake to think that the mere methodological conservation of symmetries constitutes an a priori ontological commitment to either concept for all Indic traditions are unanimous in allowing them both to be empty from the ultimate stand-point of kevalya- or Gnosis. Indeed- because Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism subscribed to such utterly opposed ontologies- the modus vivendi (I would say synthesis) made possible by Umasvati, Nagarjuna and Sankara, rendered ontology and epistemology, thereafter, as but of didactic instrumentality allowing both ethics and aesthetics to flower in a manner unintimidated by the spectre of alterity- the non communicant who negates caritas or, more to the point, feeds that triumphalist schadenfreude which is the secret of Liberal guilt – for as a great Divine observed- “Monism is an Idolatry because it is the guarding of the heart from the vision of the Other & the Other does not exist.”
Hos before Snores!
   It may also be worth pointing out that, because of social reflexivity, Karma and Dharma can never function as independent linear operators. Thus, if both are - in actuality- conserved properties at the quantum level, the Many World interpretation fails as does much of present day modal logic. It is against this background that poetry re-emerges as a type of needful magic- which Science has not yet rendered obsolete- by whose, no doubt superfluous, conjuring, though Truth remain ‘a pathless land’, yet History is constrained to a path with a heart.
     At least, that’s what would happen if reception didn’t suddenly become more important than conception- the dim dhvani echo not just more suggestive but also more significant than sphota’s molten eruption- and the only branching path, it still behove one to take, lead blindly backwards into the unpredictable Past.
Mos before Sores!
    Since, for Indians, sahitya is subordinate to sangeet- the words secondary to the song- it may be that threads of the ever vital peripatetic and performance traditions- whose collective memory is a loom of soteriological symmetries- wove into the individualistic, even antinomian, poetry of the Babu clerisy, giving rise to almost infinite dhvani suggestiveness- as well as motivating a sort of hyper-trophy of Mannerist poetic conceits in which originality and virtuosity were displayed by taking traditional metaphors for facts and adducing even more extravagant metaphors, themselves to be taken as facts, in an unhalting algorithm, reminiscent of Kripe’s workaround for Gödel, which the genius of Prof. Faruqi has illumined under the rubric of ‘mazmun afrini’.  This permitted a radical break between semantics and pragmatics in a manner that far exceeded pokey little Post-Enlightenment Europe’s fossil fuel befogged, ‘Romantic Irony’.
    Bear in mind that since Indian hermeneutics- till very recently- eschewed historicism; linking etymological virtuosity to esoteric psychology as a means to ground the mantrodhara mythos of a more than mantic potency; both semantics and pragmatics could adventure orthogonal infinities yielding a transpositionally elastic topos for a type of  Poetry whose abiding interest arises in that, violating the Anthropic principle, it allows us to breathe the poisonous air of impossible worlds to which no consciousness could be natal.
Los before Nos!
   The basic premise of Mannerist poetry- Cavalier or Clerkly- is the notion that all things are but as mirrors of all other things. A bibliolatric twist, or so a recent scholar has suggested, was given to this universal trope in early modern Christendom by St. Augustine’s notion that the human soul is a mirror which needs another mirror in order to see its own reflection or to form an estimate of its own reflective powers- that secondary mirror being the text. William Caxton, though publishing Walter Hilton, complained about women who studied ‘overmoche’ in books of contemplation. He proposed they would be better occupied with romances, which teach virtuous behaviour and promote proper civic engagement. Indeed, it would appear, the invention of reading as a mass diversion, the valorisation of the faraway and fantastical, helped save Western Europe’s emerging market economy from a mass embrace of eremiticism by the all too impressionable young. Perhaps, it also enabled the re-emergence of a Mannerist metaphysical poetry which, following the example of, ‘the first modern human’, Petrarch- a student, I believe, of Barlaam of Calabria who rejected mystic Hesychasm for Aristotelian philosophy- cast a glamour on the poet’s persona enabling it to soar above the vertiginous abyss of the mirrors’ self-reflecting depths. But this, to the eye of History, was but an Icarus flight.  Aristotle’s was not- despite the pronouncement of the First Vatican Council- the logic of the Universe.  The notion of haecceity, of ‘in-scape’- which was all that survived that wreck- gave rise at best to a sort of ersatz, imagist, wabi-sabi retreat from History- being otherwise condemned to providing Existentialism with yet sillier reasons for being beastly to vast classes of unoffending people- especially if this made one’s own destruction at their hands a mathematical certainty. More to the point, mischievous notions of an implacable and unreasoning alterity, cringing multi-culturalism, and the poisonous effluvia of the moral outrage industry can be traced back to haecceity’s unquiet ghost.
Gores before Mos!
   Joseph Needham has suggested that Liebniz, in formulating his monadology, may have been influenced by the Buddha Avatamsaka sutra- the notion that everything mirrors everything else. Equally plausible, but infinitely more suggestive, is the notion that, again by the agency of the Jesuit Mission to China, Roger Boscovich- in founding field theory- was influenced by the Vimalakriti Sutra.  Nietzsche, we know, read Boscovich and there is a neat little irony in the notion that Iqbal, procuring his own Spiritual abortion at that quack’s clinic,  rendered ever thereafter the soteriology of Sacrifice, in his native province, no longer an Universalist imitatio dei but a corrupt municipal strategy founded on  Girardian ‘mimetic desire’.
Gos before Nos!
     The Indic poet- or poetaster, to speak more narrowly of my ilk- using the metaphor of the mirror to mechanically crank out conceits- but conceits based upon reciprocal interpenetration, in line with Bhrama Sutra  3.3.37- vyatiharah vishimshanti hitaravat &c – is no doubt, in some sense, setting himself up as the rival of the Saint; yet, testing words and themes to destruction, but getting nowhere, he is nonetheless posing all the questions, and providing all the linguistic materials for the Saint to work up into answers- but answers which answer to every heart- powering that  'field of Buddhas' depicted in the Vimalakriti.  But notice that, here, haecceity is radically enriched by being enabled to engage more deeply with itself by the eager instrumentality of all other beings.  Within the Buddha-field, all Beings are equally valuable-  as in Geoffrey Chew’s bootstrap model in which all particles are equally elementary- rather than the Boddhisatva being better than the Pratyeka, or the monk being better than the layman and so on- but valuable for being themselves and never anything more. This is a monadology in which all the pearls in Indra's net reflect each and every other but do so by disclosing only their own depths. Thus is resolved the hairat-e-aainah- the ‘bewilderment in the mirror’- in Bedil and his inheritors.
Dzos before Gores!
    Indic poetasting rises to the level of art when it succeeds in invoking bhavas- emotional states, which we would now read as Darwinian algorithms of the mind- thus producing vicarious rasas- induced moods or states- in the reader.  Since actual Social Choice works through the information signalling and preference re-ordering properties of the rasa/bhava syzygy, it follows that Poetry- as Language’s R&D division- has an important part to play in making our common Lebenswelt a little more gracious and hospitable. That Indic poetry in English has failed miserably in that respect is a fact not to be gainsaid. But this is only because we, as a comprador class, haven’t yet found a way of detoxifying and domesticating the dumped epistemic imports which pre-fabricate our raison d'être.
Toes before Nose!
   However, with the emergence of an export market for knowledge based industries, it may be that an Indian poetry in English, arising out of a lived Steiglerian Technics, will produce, if not a Kabir- who came from the hand loom weaving community- at least a second Kipling, who, as C.S. Lewis said, was ‘first and foremost the poet of work’ and who, in his poem Gunga Din, redeemed the hackneyed image of the Saqi-e-Kausar (not to speak of  the so soon to be desecrated memory of Bhai Kanhaiyya) making it universal and syncretic, by associating it with an actual, real life, ‘untouchable’ bhishti.
Ohs before dzos!
   That nothing more promising is possible follows from the fact that Indglish was, and remains, founded upon a judicial hermeneutics- progressive only in being premised upon the most reactionary possible construction of the past and embracing defeasibility only with respect to its own power to probe, let alone exorcise, those imagined horrors. Thus, despite the literary genius of great Judges like Gajendragadkar or Ananthanarayan (whose name prompted a poem from Updike)- no Grothendieck Yoga- no unification on the basis of greater generality- of the faculties of feeling and judgement- and thus of Shruti and Smriti- is permitted the Indglish pen and so every superbly gifted Andre Weil will meet his, glibly Gandhian, Vijayragahavan- or, madly Marxist, Kosambi- and consequently misread ever thereafter the Gita as but deontological darkness rather than the all-liberating Paramahans’s swan song.
 Poetry as the Yoga of Depression- Arjuna’s Vishada
    Why, at the commencement of the Gita, is Arjuna despondent? Well, he is about to fight the battle of Kurukhetra in which he will have to attempt to kill not just the Head of his Family- his Great Uncle, Bhishma- but also his Guru, Drona, not to mention a whole bunch of cousins, relatives by marriage, guys he went to School with and like kids he hung out with and so on.
    Why does Arjuna have to fight? Well, let’s say, to keep things simple, coz his elder brother, Yuddhishtra, says so. Now, Yuddhishtra is a nice guy- opposed to violence, attached to Justice as Empathy- yet, he over-rules even the pleas of his super-macho brother Bhima, and their common wife, Draupati, normally vociferous for vengeance- not to go to war. 
    But, there’s something Yuddhishtra doesn’t know. It’s that he has another brother- an elder brother- that brother is Karna and Karna is absolutely unshakeable in his adherence to the other side. In other words, if anybody steps forward at this point- be it, Kunti, his mother, or Lord Krishna, his maternal cousin, or Bhishma, his paternal Great Uncle, or Vidura, his paternal Uncle, or Drona, his Guru, or the blind King Dhitisrasthra, also an uncle and the father of his enemies, or uhm… actually any passing Astrologer or Sage- Yuddhishtra will realize that he is about to commit a sin equal to parricide in raising his arm against his own elder brother.
    Arjuna, of course, could say- hey, I’m just following orders!- and get on with the fight. But there’s a problem. Arjuna is a sensitive sort of guy, not just a testosterone pumped warrior, and what’s more he’s been granted a special sort of insight called caksuci vidya by one of his mates amongst the Gandharva order of demi-gods.
    This raises an interesting question. Does Arjuna suspect that his rivalry with Karna might, in the end, be sibling rivalry; that the passions that connect them  run deeper than hate and have their source in something stronger that thymos? Arjuna and Karna have dueled before. Moreover, Kunti, their common mother, has been moving behind the scenes to secure Karna’s promise to kill no more than one of her other sons. Is it possible that, dueling with Karna, dining with Kunti, Arjuna has not picked up, at the unconscious level, any hint, any clue, of the true relationship that exists between him and his rival? Or is it rather the case, as conventional wisdom has it, that Arjuna’s Vishada- his depression, his despondency, his Hamlet like indecision- is occasioned by mere faint-heartedness and spiritual lassitude occasioning moral and religious exhortation from the Lord Himself?  Surely, at least to develop the dramatic potential of the situation, we should permit ourselves the speculation that Arjuna’s Vishada- his unsettlement of Spirit and dissonance of cognition- arises from an unconscious misgiving, a niggling doubt, a faint whisper from the inner man, that what he is embarked upon is rank rebellion, sure to wreck the Polity, and- since the eldest brother takes the place of the father- the moral equivalent of parricide?
Blows before Chores!
    What, we might ask ourselves, would have happened if Arjuna, with no Krishna for charioteer, had given way to his vishada, let his depression take the reins? Notice that the scholiasts use the term Vishada-Yoga as the title for this, the first, chapter of the Bhagvad Gita. Clearly, in some sense, Depression, too, is a path to Union, a path to Truth. Imagine unconquerable Arjuna turning back from the battlefield, slinking away to some forest or desert like a wounded cur. Imagine him living on in abjectness- supporting and compounding his dishonor with the drunkard’s flask or the addict’s pipe- revisiting, in memory, the scene of his undoing again and again only to take a sort of horripilating delight in discovering yet baser motives for his desertion and under the fair mammalian form of the ethical scruples he had credited himself with, nothing but the slimy writhing of the reptile in the id.
Nos before blows!
   What then? Arjuna sees himself as he is, as he has become, the lowest of sentient beings. Meanwhile, the World wags on without him well enough. Certainly- knowing himself now to have been more devilish than Duryodhana, more snake-like than Sakuni- he realizes it was actually a good thing that he ran away. Even his brothers have fared better for they were killed cleanly in battle rather than falling victim to Arjun’s jealous intrigues- for what unconscious motive could Arjuna have had for his desertion except to bring about the deaths of his brothers, leaving him free to have Draupati- no! to have Mother Kunti!- all to himself?
Kay Os before Rows!
    Better, then, that Duryodhana rule. And, bliss indeed- knowing now the alternative- to live even so little in to his Millenial reign.
    Thus, on the path of vishada, Arjuna has achieved wisdom. He loves the World, as it is, in every particular, without any particular love for the World and, thus, now in every conceivable World, is equally content to either perish or persist. His Yoga is complete.
Hos before Mos!
    Except things don’t that way. Why? The counterfactual trajectory of Arjuna’s vishada is permanently, excluded- as a shadow upon his ethos, a possibility for the World- precisely because it is a poetry- a Shruti that sings- and Lord Krishna, pharmakon & pharmakos, by himself becoming its Sama, himself becoming its Chandogya, cancels it out of Being- though, in the Gita, no space is wasted on actually doing that simulation- but then, it seems, quantum computers can do sums without actually being switched on.
        What of the Kurukshetra War- did it have to take place?
   True, Krishna or Kunti- or even Dhrtarashtra, the blind daddy of the baddies, who is being kept in the picture by Sanjaya- could stop the war before it begins by revealing Karna’s true birth. However, Karna has refused to permit this. He prefers to remain ‘lower caste’. His wish is for the aristocrats to attain Heaven, dying the way they lived, sword in hand. Thus, the battle of Kurukshetra goes ahead as the apotheosis, but also the holocaust, of the aristocracy. It is a vishodhana, a ritual cleansing, a purgative blood-letting, a veritable Götterdämmerung of the Lords of the Earth. Here falls Bhishma- who captured Princesses by the strength of his arm, to give brides to his nephews, completely forgetting that every woman- even a Princess!- has the right to chose her own husband-and here falls Drona, the Brahmin Guru, who orders the ‘out-caste’ Ekalavya to sacrifice his thumbs so as to fulfill his own promise to Prince Arjuna- viz. that he would make him the greatest archer in the world- completely forgetting that it is allegiance to Truth, not the accident of Birth, that makes one worthy of instruction. By this act, Drona falls- he is acharabrashta, a Brahminbandhu merely- but his pique against his friend King Drupada, his desire to rival him in possession of  lands, had set him on the path to destruction already.  Here falls Duryodhana, the ultimate Dynast, and here, by his mother’s curse, the seed for the destruction of the Vrishnis- Lord Krishna’s people- and though, by Karna’s boon, the fallen Kings attain Heaven- the Celestial Realm is by their very influx rendered unworthy thereafter of being the object of spiritual striving and thus everywhere we look the cry goes up for Moksha, Liberation, release from the cycle of birth and death, the Natural and the Supernatural.
    What is this story whose plot twist is that plots don’t matter, what is this branching which leads us always back to the root?  What is our vishada- facing the Gita- seeking to interpret the Gita- which, guided by Krishna or unguided by Krishna, leads us always back to Krishna knowing there was never anything but Krishna and, in that darkness, dreams too were sleep?
Putting the Lund into London, innit?
Kurukshetra happened.
   Kurukshetra’s always happen and always, before it and beyond, lies this vishada and this Gita, this sorrow and this song.
Yathe icchasi tathaa kuru
As you wish, so do.
Or to put it another way-
Do as you will is all of the Law!
    Thus did Dharma- what binds people together in ties of mutuality- appear in propria persona to deny the jurisdiction of the councils of Family, Tribe, College or Kingdom- any collective, any existentially constructed  mimesis of some Justice’s Platonic form- thus firmly re-establishing Religion, Morality’s Fortress, with ramparts pre-ruined, foundations self-sapped, so God invade India- the gods chaff to His flail.
Foes before Mos!
    Evolutionary Biology has sought to explain Depression, including post natal depression, as a sort of testing for support. If I shut down for a while, will the people I’ve committed to think it worthwhile to support me? If not, I’ve been mistaken in them. I should move on. Another way of saying the same thing is to speak of a testing- not for support- but for redundancy. If things pretty much work out as they should without me, I’m redundant- I should move on.
   Sounds simple enough don’t it? But, there’s a problem. Socio-biology explains the  survival value of cultivating a culture of lying, sending out false signals, disguising your need for those you truly need and pretending to need- to be absolutely unable to do without- those of no use whatsoever.  Indeed, so little do what wills its survival and what blindly works that will coincide that we are all but chthonic Chimaeras with the eyes of Apollo- to whom it were mortal to glimpse the true form under which we  propagate- and the broader streams of Life too seem but cascading symbioses of deceit- all deceit  so finely interwoven as to form a seamless web- and the Depressive position, in especial, but a deceit spun upon deceit- the shed skin, the Lebenswelt we quit and do not quit, of the snake in the spine. And this is adaptive because the other side of the equation is that ecological niches will be always occupied just as Kurukshetras will always occur and Pandava or Kaurava, Eutheria or Metatheria, events will unroll pretty much as they would had we never been born.
Rose before foes!
   Lord Krishna has a surprising formula for overcoming the despondency that arises from a sudden waking to this web of lies. It occurs before the great duel between Karna and Arjuna. King Yuddhishtra has been driven from the field by Karna’s arrows and insults. He turns, on his stretcher, in great humiliation and bitterness of mind, to berate Arjuna with ill deserved taunts of cowardice and sloth. He says Arjuna should hand over his divine weapon, the Gandiva bow, to someone more worthy to wield it. Arjuna gives way to fierce resentment. He is preparing to draw his sword on his elder brother for, as he tells Krishna, he has vowed to kill the man who would have him yield his bow to another. It seems the divine weapons that the different heroes have acquired over the course of the epic are all, in some sense, part of their essence.  They will kill rather than part with, or, indeed, be forced to share, these instruments of universal death. The Gandharva, Chitrangada- a Prince of the faery order, we may recall from the Book of Origins- felt similarly about his own name. He slew Crown Prince Chitrangada in mortal combat- thus permitting the crown to pass to Vichitraveera- the guy with the strange sperm- thus beginning the Kuru dynasty’s problems with finding legitimate heirs. In semiotics the distinction is made between paradigmatic and syntagmatic analysis. It appears, in the Mahabharata, the divine weapons which come in to the possession of heroes are paradigmatic- they serve to identify each warrior with a specific deity or super-natural being.  The Kurukshetra battle then becomes the earthly mirror of a contentious polytheistic Universe.  However, at another level, these weapons are syntagmatic- they belong to different grammatical classes- they qualify each other’s meaning- their arrows weave the warp and woof of the text. But to what purpose? In the end, it seems, they serve but to cancel out each other; or - in the aftermath of the final night slaughter of the apocalyptic Sauptikaparvan- to rend the veil of human agency, exposing all the intense human drama that had gone before as a mere pantomime of nullity, revealing the dread visage of the skull garlanded Goddess whose tongue is ever thirstily outstretched to receive the shed blood of her children.
      So much, then, for the warrior’s quiver- what of the poet’s quill?
   From the story of Vyasa and Suka we learn that the poet's perfect progeny become one with Nature, abandoning the fond progenitor to the senile futility of the laws he has revealed and the righteousness has upheld.
   Krishna explains that Arjuna- bound, now, his brother both to kill and obey- does not know the Law, his intuitions about morality are faulty. However, there is a way he can both fulfill his vow of annihilating his insulter without incurring the terrible guilt of fratricide. He can insult his insulter. An insult is very death to an honorable man. Thus counseled, Arjuna reproaches Yuddhishtra in round terms, condemning him for his addiction to gambling, his weakness in war, his prevarication in peace, the all-round disaster that he has been for his family.
   Hearing this, Yuddhishtra prepares to cede sovereignty to his second brother, Bhima, and retire to the forest. He fully accepts the force of Arjuna’s impeachment. However, Arjuna- unable to bear up to what he has just done- is ready to draw his sword upon himself in a paroxysm of self-loathing. Krishna points out a way in which he can slay himself and yet not be guilty of the wretched crime of suicide. Strangely, it consists of praising oneself- making a full statement of one’s achievements and potential- an act of hubris, we might think, likening oneself to the immortal gods- but, not so, according to Krishna, “Declare now, in words, thy own merit. Thou shalt then, O Partha, have slain thy own self."
     Thus Krishna’s visvasrupa darsana- his disclosing of his own cosmic form in the Gita- was an all compassioning self-slaying, a Christ-like harrowing of the Hell that is Duty- or act of mirrored cosmic repair, as of Tzimtzum’s splintering Tikkun, or say Memory’s Heaven rooted Rk by the rhythmic axe ringing of its medley’s Sama.
   Krishna’s insistence that Arjuna does not know the Law- even after hearing the Gita- bears some further pondering upon. It is a basic human belief that all laws are in some sense organically connected or consubstantial in essence. Thus, to break one law, to commit one sin, is felt to involve the transgression of all the norms of ethical life. Just recently, some rowdy Rabbis requested Sacha Baron Cohen- a Jewish comedian- to desist from his portrayal of Kazakh people (who are ethnically and religiously distinct from the Cossacks who persecuted the Jews) in an offensive way because, according to Halacha law, to insult a man is to impose a sort of ‘social death’ upon him and, consequently, such an act is as reprehensible as murder. Notice that Lord Krishna uses the same argument. This does not mean that in addition to ‘Aryan Invasion Theory’ we need also genuflect to a “Rabbi invasion theory”! However, we might usefully consider the concept of halacha v’ein morin kein- that law such that, once it is known, once it is understood, prohibits the very action it otherwise enjoins. This type of law is applicable to the action of Pinchas, the zealot, who killed Prince Zimri and his shiksa succubus, Kosbi. In other words, the fact that the All Holy approves the action of Pinchas, thus showing it was halachah, also prohibits any student of Scripture from performing a like action. However, if a single part of the law is of this paradoxical sort, then the entire nature of the Law is utterly changed. The same argument holds for the absolute truth value of judicial hermeneutics except- by that very same halachah v’ein morin kein!- in practice, it can’t and ain’t. The Judge, then, becomes the only truly tragic figure in what is otherwise a comedy- your legal rights and entitlements becoming defeasible simply by being spelled out to you. Indeed, your claims on others, once upheld beyond infirmity of suspicion or hope of appeal, may now appear to you as injustices or injuries for which you owe reparation.
    Rather than focusing on outward and visible actions, it seems the true operation of the Law is on the inward ethos of those it entitles, expanding their powers of empathy and radically purifying their intentions. This has the effect of changing the nature of a community bound by Law from one where the relationship between man and man is mediated by scarcity, by ‘mimetic desire’, in short a zero-sum game, to something completely different- a Spiritual College- or tremendously diverse but mutually interdependent Moral ecology- productive of non-rival, non-excludable, goods with an exponential consumption externality. Considered from this point of view, the true sin of the ten spies, mentioned in Numbers (14-31), was to have hidden what they should have gloriously revealed rather than, once safe back home, garrulously recount what policy bade them hide.
   The paradox that the Law, once proclaimed, can function to prohibit its own operation- that infinite defeasibility is the essence of deon- absent an all embracing spiritual revolution- is what ensures that the Law has a living essence; a face ever turned  towards us as everything else goes to destruction. By contrast, poetry- as now read, as now written- is Lawlessness in the raw.
    Why? How so? Surely poets are still the tragic peddlers of the necessary lie- affirming faith in Mo Tzu’s ghosts, who spy upon everything and keep the peasants honest- but, guys, Mo Tzu’s ghosts were a bad fucking idea. They ended up serving the Imperial Bureaucracy of Hell- which, by its bare existence, annexes Heaven and Earth.
    In brief- big, big difference between the Law which is abrogated the moment you become qualified to dispense it, but which you have to dispense precisely for that reason- that’s fucking Tragedy mate- everything else is just false witness & Mo Tzu’s fucking ghosts.
Holy Gita, pleased to meetya!
     The Gita, as received in English, appears a poem like every other in its class- viz. a contrived literary topos of epoché (εποχη), wherein all action is suspended and the world shown not to be real in the conventional sense, thus providing a jumping off point for high-brow phenomenological & meta-psychological speculation. Thus, it begins in the depressive position and proceeds, with sham scholarship and slip-shod reasoning, to deduce all the usual ad captum vulgi received truths from fatuous first principles, before finally jamming its tongue more firmly and farther up the Lord’s arse than seems humanly conceivable. However, the Gita was neither written in English nor emerged from a literary mode of production of which English retains any trace. The Gita is embedded in the Mahabharata whose poesis- being hermeneutic in intention and competitive in redaction- ensured that, more than ‘meaning being in use’, meaning had to be ‘gamed’. Indeed, since its producers were also its chief consumers, it is likely that poesis and hermeneutics fed off each other in a manner subversive of a substantive pragmatics. Indeed, the adverse, the ironic, self-selection of communities such as ‘the wise’, ‘the knowledgeable,’ ‘the righteous’, would by itself be constitutive of a hysteresis heavy dissipative system wherein a fine-tuning of the ‘energy pump’- represented by the self aggrandizing certainties of the elite- and the ‘energy sink’ of their mutual frictions and aporias of judgment might bring to birth a Mandelbrot fractal holographic of the other discourses to which it stands as boundary.
    Which is a particularly witless way of saying, the objectionable portions of the Gita are actually utterly hilarious. No translator, living or dead, has been able to bring out the marvelous humor of this great work. Obviously, it’s a völkisch Monty Python piece- I personally think the satire on the arriviste aristocracy a little too broad- especially their imputed casteism and misogyny. But what touches me is the enormous pathos of God literally killing himself to save his B.F.F- and we are all God’s Best Friend Forever- something as salutary as a spot of depression, a touch of the blues, a bit of a mood.
Warning, fart joke fast approaching!
    If the Gita was about deontological vs. consequentialist ethics- or something equally silly- then, clearly, the most important thing to analyze is what is happening to the information set. But nobody does that. Something undoubtedly happens to inter-subjective Reality when empathy- Poetry, properly so called- operates to collapse a counterfactual mythos such that only its sweet mathetic fruit is received. What that is, I don’t yet know. Heraclitus, whom the Greeks called ‘the dark one’, is helpful- ‘Gods and mortals live each other’s deaths, die each other’s lives’. The truth is, they also write each other’s verse. Someday, perhaps, I too will see it. Then I’d know.
Nose before rose!
   But, having thoroughly frightened myself with that last bit, let me hasten to conclude- in a suitably chastened spirit- these brief remarks with the observation- one that surely has occurred to you already- that though Poetry, like Philosophy, evolved out of those acts of communal defecation, enforced so as to keep a check on what people were actually eating- as opposed to the woolly mammoths they claimed to have slain to devour- and engaged or academic poetry to this day remains a testimony to what poets can’t intellectually digest, coloured and scented by the many splendour’d bile of their self secreting spleen- Indglish poetry, ignominiously self-published and ever afterwards un-read, retains this other possibility- viz. to incarnate, however humbly and in despite of the disastrous consequences for one’s jaddi, the indefatigable Le Pétomane of the impossible Music of the post Ptolemaic Spheres. Or if that aint portentous enough, A.R. Rahman’s latest chart-buster.
Why write poetry?
   Poetry is the cheapest hobby- or resource of interior decoration- a person can indulge in. Whether physically paralysed- by illness or abulia- or financially constrained by cancelled credit cards or the less shameful fate of penal incarceration-  poetry affords one a means of enriching and making memorable the passing moment- charged though it be with the unhappiest thoughts and bitterest recollections- that too by an arrangement of mere words- metrical or not as your taste takes you- which invoke an invisible interlocutor- a Muse, a Messiah, or perhaps just the mouse whose scampering you already hear but whose visage you’d willingly forbear to view till, by the magic of poesy, it bear a friendlier aspect.
Choli ke peeche...
   The practice of preserving one’s own poetry- even publishing it- seems, however, to cry out for a, Karl Abraham type, Psychoanalytical interpretation.  Stool samples, no doubt, have their place- though, in my experience, it is an adolescent mistake to seek to arouse the interest of your inamorata- even if she is training to be a Doctor- with such gifts, but why anthologise their literary equivalent?
   The answer, at least for me, has to do with rasabhasa- inappropriate rasa, bad taste- since all mental objects turn out on analysis to be inappropriate predicates for Concrete Universals, all poetry is guilty of rasabhasa. However, rasabhasa is appropriate for hasya- that is comedy- which precisely for that reason includes all the other rasas- including shanta, the highest. However, the paradox arises that, whereas the operation of rasabhasa permits the redemption of every rasa by hasya, that saviour alone is unredeemed.  Comedy is the mirror which functions as the Messiah of all other literary modes, but only by smashing its own surface and forbidding its resurrection to such shattered slivers as constitute but our World.
Oopar ya Nietzche?
   Thus spoke Nietzsche- “That which we can find words for is something already dead in our hearts; there is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking”.  And it is to a parallel end, a like illumination, that I ask you to turn these crabbed kenotic pages- laying up in your lap the shattered shards of this Messiahless Mirror which discloses Bibhatsa as the true Shanti- Disgust as the undifferentiable name of Vivek’s but discriminated God. 

6 comments:

  1. What a fucking waste.

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  2. Erudition, talent. But no, it's put to better use this way. What else should you have done with it? Become an academic? I might even read your novel, but I have to read the rest of Verga's novels first.

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  3. Italian realist novelist of the ottocento e novecento, one of the greatest Italian novelists.

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  4. Cool! I had heard of him but haven't read him. I suppose it would give the other side of the picture one gets from I Gattopardo. I used to have a soft spot (in the head)for the somewhat later, more decadent, crepescular sort of thing that lay behind Quasimodo. All false, of course- its a sort of vicarious cultural tourism which gapes at 'Christ stopped at Eboli' and treats the Mezzogiorno as a sort of Human Jurrasic Park. Still, those guys sure had talent.

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