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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Of Truth and Beauty



There is a persistent modern myth that the beauty of poetry, the mysterium which poetry produces in the listener, is in some way a product of work, talent, or craft.

Explanations for natural phenomena seem existentially bound to material explanations. "What makes a plant grow?", The seed, the code of DNA, a set of reactions inside the cells? What makes a car steer? The wheel. What makes a car run? The motor.

Surrounded by ready answers, depictions of reality gloss over a thick coating of myth, an opaque polymer of material causes. The water soaks the paper. The rain wets the field. That drink quenched my thirst.

What makes the walker walk? His feet? Aristotle's final cause, 'the desire to get somewhere', is not at our lips.

Yet human endeavors in this second millennium are are ubiquitously propelled by understandings that only look to the walker's feet, the car's wheel, or the plant seed.

What makes these things happen? 

What fuels life? What runs the universe? Why does gravity work? What is gravity? What is an electromagnetic field? What causes light appear to bend objects placed partly in water?

Yes we have models that attempt explanation, but even while accurate predicting these behaviors no fundamental understandings are offered. As seekers we are left with our own constructs. Models are human made stuff. Moreover the models in use have changed significantly over time, and over the life of science and are likely to change again.

Our science, our methodology for seeking knowledge, whispers nothing, dry mouthed.

Poetry similar to science, has chewed up the lives of millions of devotees and seen imaginative minds toil under similar rules.

Science proceeds, so we believe, incrementally, towards truth, just as poets often deceive themselves that the object of their progress is beauty. Exceptions to all rules abound, and so with a few hundred years of science and many thousands of years of poetry at our backs, it appears that some progress has been made, though the mysteriums left to uncover seem infinite, and in the case of science, perhaps too costly to ever finally unmask.

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