That Aristotle, as many know, tutored Alexander the Great for five years from 343 BC, when the future king was aged 13.
The quotation is an enigma: what does Aristotle mean by “youth?”) Aristotle does not seem to be implying that the issue is not so much biological youth as much as it is the absence of wisdom (at least that’s how it goes according to Grint, K. (2007) on the subject of leadership, in an article he wrote entitled “Learning to Lead: Can Aristotle Help Us Find the Road to Wisdom?”
Okay, now, I admit it: I hate it when educated people who may have not read Aristotle’s work completely, cherry-pick some of his quotes with the intent of convincing the reader or listener that they are cultured or intelligent. Manypeople, however learned as they are, certainly might have skimmed through some of Aristotle’s books and certainly wanted to be a member of a group that is “in the know,” who might even be in the know (having learned that the message of Aristotle as many come to learn), later. His approach is rooted firmly in a sometimes overtly clear, though always elaborate system of metaphysics; so obvious are Aristotle’s insights to many people and (often surprisingly) so boring are Aristotle’s arguments, so many believe they ”ring true” too much. And what happens? Aristotle becomes reduced and cast aside simply because he arrived at conclusions that we, as moderns, can easily just find on Google or in a book on topology.
I appreciate Aristotle: and yet, long before the Devil was down in Georgia galvanizing populist enthusiasm by playing a fiddle, it was, in fact, Plato, Aristotle’s teacher, that condemned the irrational part of human nature. Plato downright hated anything irrational and viewed it is as the source of error, which was contrary to Truth. He condemned all mimetic art (epic poetry, painting, etc) as a copy of a copy of an idea—-an idea for him, in fact, is the actual true, intangible ontological fact that must be contended with and/or accepted as real and actual within the terms of our understanding and reason. Basically, for Plato, art—-because it is is “art”ificial by definition (and might appear or present itself as truth to those who lack experience and/or wisdom, art is merely a copy of a copy of an idea, and not the idea itself, therefore is, by default, further and further away from the actual Truth.
Some contemporary philosopher recently joked that if poets rule dthe world then genocide would increase. Check out Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath and Walt Whitman and William Butler Yeats: what were they trying to do? Comfort us? Make us love ourselves beyond measure, play to our reptilian brains, then meander off into a grassy field where there are graves and bodies so that they, as poets, can graft their stanzas to the monstrosity of God’s personal eternity?
Plato hated poets for many specific reasons, as he writes, in Book X of The Republic. In Book X he admits that human beings, whatever they are like when they are young or now or later in years, when they are inexperienced or not, are impressionable beings; they influence one another. He did not want a poem (so innocent that it might appear) to lie or to mislead youth, so that the youth is then falsely informed about what is real and what is not—-affected by the illusion of the primacy of beauty over ethics. Plato did not want a poem’s “truthiness” (even if written well, in daclytic hexameter) to surpass the quest for Truth.
So then why is rationality so important and art such bullshit to so many people in the world? I will provide a theory.
I find it strange that an entire civilization—the Ancient Greeks–-(from the Pre-Socratics to the Sophists to the Stoics and Neo-Platonists, all of who were instrumental in helping us learn how to tend the garden of Western thought (even as many ancient philosophers are often misunderstood by popular obscurantists who are, more often than not, writing in German) were such slaves to the mystique of Truth that they had to elevate Rationality and Reason far above the prospect of their own liberty. They valued Reason and Understanding and Argument over their own liberty. Why? We can only guess, but they certainly had no conception of freedom (as we have come to understand it…for freedom comes later, at the end of the Age of the Enlightenment with Kant et al). In short, why did a people who valued Reason over liberty, in turn held such a negative view of the senses and of the irrational? They held such a fear of the irrational so much so one might even conclude that they hated the body at some level (even though they constructed many statues depicting it), yet ultimately, in their written work, saw the human body as corruptible, therefore they could not trust enough to give them insight into any knowledge that could constitute truths or Truth.
But back to the irrational…and the fear of the irrational. Do we not have that today? Who are all these “experts” who privilege reason and rationality over un-reason and insanity? Have these people ever read a good novel?
Any good novel interrogates the tension between freedom and confinement, between an individual living in an irrational world, which is often in concert with the choices made by a world that, like a machine, is all too rational.
More on the irrational, though…
Many Ancient Greek mathematicians, as is well known, often fled from the prospective appearance of irrational numbers while doing mathematics, which were produced by dividing a number by zero. So what happened there? Were dirty Greek togas in dire need of being laundered? Why did, in fact, did the Ancient Greeks (who had so many great teachers and philosophers) consult an fucking oracle before waging a war or making a big political decision, even though the educated class, the philosophers (who were all practically atheists and agnostics)? It is worth remembering that the Ancient Greeks kept theological frameworks in their intellectual discussions in order to accommodate the biggest questions in philosophy. Only in this way is all of existence on the table: so that one can ask and have access to an entire ontology of a Divinity, in order to better describe the hypothetical origin and fate of the universe, as well as the political reality of the power of the state.
But seriously, “folks” (Obama’s favorite way of addressing Joe Blow middle-class Americans): How many Ancient Greek slaves were actually starving and being beaten while let’s say, two men from Ptolemaic Alexandria discussed what human beings want? What did they talk about? They talked about an ideal world without troubles, where pleasures abound and are easily acquired, in that utopia acceptable….so goes Socrates (through Platonic dialogues).
Welcome to the City of Pigs, then, O Brave New World, capital of Human Desire. (You will not turn into a donkey here; you will be given access to websites and will win and win and win).
Every man and woman has a Jerusalem and a New York, a Las Vegas and a Calcutta in their bloodstream and their bone marrow—this much I believe.
And yet from what I gather, from doing my homework, the Ancient Greeks were bona fide, oxymoronic posers. They wanted to be the Egyptians instead of themselves as if they hated themselves. The Greeks only wished they were as hardworking, mystical, sexy, and irrational as the Egyptians. They only wished they knew the secrets to the stars. The Ancient Greeks, in fact, loved almost everything about the Egyptians and what they did, it was as if the Greeks, were in some ways (to the Egyptians) their first retarded cousins (to speak nothing of cultural incest, nor the retroactive prospects of Christian ethics). Find me one place in an Ancient Greek text where a scholar or scribe painted the Egyptians as useless or advised the reader to not adore them (except the Bible). This fact alone presents its own set of questions regarding what the true roots of Western civilization are.
So now, then, dear readers, I will leave it at this: I don’t blame the Ancient Greeks for their admiration of the Ancient Egyptians; I blame the American people for their admiration of a democracy that never existed. The American people are being mislead by misreading history books. What good is our society if what we call good is called democracy and we don’t experience, nor witness anything like a democracy. I am not touching French thought right now, pace, Descartes, probably the father of psychology, but Western Civilization has given humanity the Law as well as a bunch of statues and paintings, trinkets, jewelry, nukes, guns, medicines, and a whole lot of exploitation of women and children. Western Civilization has perfected the art of slavery, human subjugation, and perfected the art of genocide of entire populations with smirks, taunts, denials, and philosophical justifications to excuse the behavior as if it wasn’t real.
And for all those Greens out there, searching for the harnessing of the Zero-Point Energy? Are we, as eco-friendly moderns, aware that the Ancient Egyptians addressed Nature in the second-person (as a “You” and not as an “It”)? Are we Google-savvy, pill-popping masters of our own realities aware that it was the Ancient Egyptians that had such a rich spiritual lens/theology as part of their daily lives (with gods and principalities overseeing even most banal of phenomena like the bending of a reed in the wind), that their intellectual adventures were wholly poetic at all times of the day and all times of the night?
Walk towards the light, 21 century poets. Walk towards the secret of poetry. You, too, have been affected and have lost touch with the world in which you live.
This is what I propose that the 21st century poet needs today: he or she needs to be reminded of how ancient man and woman and his or her poetic sensibilities were identical, if not inextricably entwined with every aspect of their lives. For this reason, I am a firm proponent that any person that professes to be a poet in the 21st century and has the mind-set of Ancient Egyptian should become more intertwined, if not in constant dialogue with Beauty and with the meaning of why they write poetry itself.
I believe that reconnecting to the Ancient Eygptians and sharing some of their ways of being in the world makes a lot more sense than applying to or god-forbid attending a Master of Fine Arts program in Poetry at a university. The once illiterate men and women of the world were once subservient to kings, then said “fuck that shit,” and ran away, and became fully literate, and began to speak, and write in the vernacular, and understood the “democratization of the afterlife,” and they soon became the auto-didatic polymaths that their gods always wanted them to be.
But many poets of the 21 century simply do not have the guts to believe in anything positive.
Have I gone New Age here? No, I’ve gone Old Age.
I am of the opinion that without understanding the esoteric tradition of an Egyptian Moses or Summerian Innana poets cannot even proceed to write anything good, let alone be passionate about self, debauchery, escapism, sex and their detailed descriptions of their hangovers and/or prison sentences. Demystifying all, poets of the 21 century will simply keep singing of themselves like Whitman, thwarting government agendas like Mayakovksy for the sake of appearing important, or worse: repeating the sentimental drivel of the Romantics, replete with a disingenuous kindness to Mother Nature, but without the great smashing hit that can only be produced by a hand-written letter to one’s true love right before a hot bathtub for a Roman suicide.
But no, sweetest of friends—-what we get these days is rehashed, third-rate faux-Apollonian verse written on Facebook, which is so Oedipal and Eurocentric and dickless and sentimental and dripping in Bukowski’s bowel movements and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, that it should come as no surprise to the New York literati that if the Ancient Egyptians were here with us, they would themselves would disapprove of the content of what the New York literati consider to be poems and, moreover, they would tell some up-and-coming poetaster’s ba to fly away as a flustered bird, while their name (their legacy) attempts to find a home.
Let the former aspect of human nature (the ba) perch on a tombstone only to balk at the mourner.
Let the latter (the human name) be so well-preserved, that any perfect poem written on papyrus or not on the part of a 21st century poet, that sits openly before the god Osiris as he sits before the Scales of Divine Judgement, shows how the content and/or meaning and/or stakes of the 21st century poem weights as much (that is, is equal) to the Feather of Truth, thereby granting the 21 century poet entrance into a world that has ceased to fear death or even know death: A world much like ours, but without the copy-paste features of MS Word, Facebook, Twitter, and the electronic mice we use to move the screens we watch—that and/or with remote control.
Never stop writing, poets. Never surrender to what you don’t believe in.
I remain but one blogger,