One thing Eliot believed poetry could do (usually did not) was reunite the
parts of ourselves dissociated in our time. He made an amazing claim for
the ability of poetry to save the mind in some way.
Date sent: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 22:47:45 +0100
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From: "Frances Rushworth" <[log in to unmask]>
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Subject: Re:OT--horror and phones
Before I make this response, I will first admit my ignorance of the many
authorities cited by Jonathon Crowther in his search for the symbolic
meaning of the acts of 9/11. I do not share his alarm at the idea 'that
we are all accidents of one intellect and universal will', as to me it
seems to be a basic tenet of all the religions I have ever heard of, and
certainly applies to both the Christian and Muslim faiths, with all their
offshoots. I suppose it is most simply expressed as 'In the beginning God
created...'. The concept that we are all integral parts of an
unfathomably greater whole, is the essence of faith. Faith is
uncertainty, beliefs are an entirely different matter. To fathom the
'symbol', we would have to understand the beliefs of those who made it.
He goes on to talk of the terrorism of the IRA, and to say that since the
British (which includes me) have not 'leaned on them to decommission and
end their atrocities', we 'harbour terrorists and so should receive the
same treatment as any other country under the US's rules.'. Does he truly
imagine that the British government and people cheerfully accept the
terrorism of the IRA, and that enormous amounts of political effort and
military and civilian lives have not been expended in the quest for peace?
In the past year or so, we have come nearer to a resolution of the
conflict than we have ever been before, but this is after decades of
horror. If I could imagine that the US would be more sucessful against
the terrorists who have been active in its own cities, I would feel far
less doom-ridden than I do. Terrorism is not a country, not Northern
Ireland and not Afghanistan, and a 'war' cannot be waged against it. It
is a clash of beliefs, resulting in desperate action, understanding this
clash is a prerequisite of resolution.
He asks, why can't history leave us alone? I, too, fear the loss of the
known, but 'History is now and England.', or Montana or Pakistan. We are
all history, and no adult is an innocent victim. One might wish to grade
the degree of guilt we bear, from the Americans who bankrolled the IRA, to
the men who planted the bombs in London, from the people who own the sweat
shops in the Far East, to the woman who buys cheap clothing for her
children. We are all responsible for the world we live in, by what we do
and what we don't do, and what we choose never to consider. 'Go,go, go,
said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality. Time past and
time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end,
which is always present.' I don't like it at all, but I am with Ken
Armstrong when he writes that 'the tragic is ... bred in the bone.' I
share Tom K's distress when he feels compelled to conclude that the events
of 9/11 comprise tragedy for the terrorists, but don't you see, it is a
tragedy for those who died, representing, as they did, all the Western
World, our ethos which also has flaws.
I am so happy! My mum just phoned to tell me that my youngest brother,
who was climbing in Northern Pakistan, has crossed the border into India.
I talk a good game, concern for the big picture, but really, my fear for
all those who live in the Himalayas is as nothing, compared to the relief
I feel that the boy is out of there. I returned to The Four Quartets,
knowing they were published before the end of the Second World War, hoping
for a light on the times. Initially, I felt disappointed, almost
revolted, that TSE could have focussed so on the personal experience, when
he wrote at a such a time and place. Now I feel that the personal is the
only place we can make a sure start. I originally intended to write
asking if anyone knew what TSE saw as the purpose of poetry in general and
his own in particular. Was it simply self-expression? I would still like
to know - I have only read the poetry, not the autobiographies or
critiques. I only subscribed to this site a few days ago and I have been
fascinated by the email, and distracted from my worry, so thanks. Thanks
particularly to Rickard, for the Auden poem that restored my faith in the
relevance of poetry.
To get heavy again, if poetry can help our understanding, it then becomes
incumbent upon us to think, opine, and respond - to act, but not to react.
P.S. What does 'Dude, that's whack' mean?