Reply To: October 6: Science and Potery

Author Replies # Posted on October 7, 2014 at 14:24

Reading Midgley’s Poetry and Science did not bring any new information to me; we’ve discussed the effects of Cartesian dualism, when it comes to both the emergence of detached scientific paradigms and the construction of matter/mind divide, we’ve also discussed what Cartesian dualism entails when it comes to understanding entities outside us as possessing a mind or not (subject/object), we’ve contemplated holistic Gaian thinking many times. But what was new is that Midgley compressed this huge area of intellectual history of atomism, spanning from Democritus to contemporary scientists and showed how atomism and individualism legitimized each other from the 17th century onwards, only to bring us where we are – on a planet that cannot regulate its systems anymore and the same time we are unable to think about the natural environment in a way that is both fact-based and self-reflexive. Great. This is where Midgley is amazing and even healing; she compels the reader to explore new ways of self-reflection in relation to the materiality. She calls for a “widening of responsibility” ; not just towards other living entities, but towards Gaia and she claims that poetic thinking, mythopoiesis, can open up new ways of involvement with this self-regulating organism called Gaia. I have decided to “test” this approach, hence why I have chosen a short ecocriticism exercise for this seminar. I am very thankful to my colleagues for their contributions because in the end the exercise actually made sense, since when I did it alone, it seemed like fanciful daydreaming. Not just poetry, but visual art and even a scientific narrative were discussed. I’ve presented a Montenegrin folk ballad called Još ne sviče rujna zora (The red dawn has not yet risen; my translation), which has always touched me to the core and when the poem is understood through the concepts of ecological sensibility and romantic ecology (both are concepts used in ecocriticism) the poem opens up and sets the reader as the one experiencing sorrow (the narrator mourns the death of his/her beloved), since the pain is transported almost as if through nerves to “all that is alive” (see poem below). When reading the poem and especially when singing it, since it is traditionally not narrated but sung, one is in sorrow as if the collective organism is hurt. This poem evokes very strong emotions in me and indeed compels a person usually branding Gaian thinking as new-age BS, to rethink what is the underlying motive of my cynical disregard of holistic approaches.
There, I hope I didn’t get too cheesy with this reflection. And here is the poem I’ve chosen for the seminar (the translation is mine, meaning: no rhymes, no rhythm, no aesthetics whatsoever).

The red dawn has not yet risen
the mountain leaf is not atremble
the nightingale’s song is not yet heard
the song that announces the dawn.

The sound of the axes cannot be heard
nor the song of the shepherd
silence is all around and
all that is alive is reposing.

Let the dew covered blossoms blossom
let the spring grace herself with them,
I will gather the flowers no more,
for they are not for me.

I will gather the flowers no more,
for I have no one to gift
to whom I have given them
for she is covered with earth.

Every budding blade of grass
at least feels its own joy
but joy has deserted me
and fled away, oh so far away.