For Plato and the Pre-Socratics, there is a consistent notion that what constitutes Godhood is the act of creation. In the Timaeus, this is not only evident in the Demiurge’s injection of the forms into the “receptacle” but, too, in Timaeus’ explication of such a creation by injecting the abstract concepts he discusses into language. In the Symposium, the discourse of men is said to birth ideas in a similar way. For Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, the role of the poet is quiet similar and, indeed, the nomenclature of the practice derives from the Greek poein, the infinitive of “create” or “contrive.” For modern poets such as as Percy Shelly, TS Eliot (in his 4 Quartets) and Wallace Stevens (in his “Motive for Metaphor”) there is, again, a similar notion that the act of creation is godly, if not a participation in Godhood itself.
I’ve said before that life is a congealment. So too is the creative act. Linguistically, this is evident in words – words refer to a congealed abstraction, a “being.” Thus, poetry is none other than the image of our world constructed linguistically. For, when I say a thing a certain way, it is attention which I make you pay. And in doing so, so you’ll see, words with sounds form differently. The basic connection is differential dissection of fabulous labels of little discretion. Here is why the Platonic notion of words as magic was set in motion! In hearing two sounds which seem the same we ascribe to them meanings despite different names. The mind is roused and attention is paid, such is the business of the poetic game.
In the above, meter, rhyme, assonance, consonance, and metaphor all image or reflect reality in some way. All such poetic tools deal with basic metaphysical notions of difference and sameness (that is, connection via differential dissection). Different words with different referents are connected by virtue of their ordered relation to each other, a pattern of writing which, when taken as a whole, leads to implicit metaphysical implications, cognized or otherwise. For, sense-data is inextricably related to how the mind internalizes the essential nature or core qualities of what it deems a “being,” and sound is a piece of such data. When sounds are similar, the mind, of course, asserts a similar cause – when we hear the sound of a running liquid (splashes, a waterfall, rain) we know that some liquid is close to us. Similarly, when we hear two words of similar sound, they become associated in a similar causal fashion. Such sounds could be consonant or assonant, rhymed or timed. In any case, when one orchestrates his language in this way, he, quite clearly, I think, images the mental process whereby life is defined. For this reason, language as a sensory reality alters our senses’ connection to the rest of reality as such. For this reason, the creative act necessarily reflects or images that of a God, whether one exists or not. Creation, thus, stands as a microcosm of reality. It is a prism through which the infinitely abstract light of reality is split into the discretely determined spectrum of visible light, Roy G. Biv.
The metaphysically-oriented nature of metaphor cannot be understated, here. In my opinion, where rhyme and consonance manipulate sound, metaphor manipulates meaning. There is a unique intersection of metaphor and philosophy which I find curious and amazing yet which is not all too often discussed. Again, the distinction between mystical and scientific philosophy must be invoked, as it is the mystical which makes use of the metaphorical. Where a scientific explanation of the extraction of discrete entities from an abstract universal would do so with meticulous linguistic precision, the mystical takes what would have taken ages for the understanding to recognize and compresses it into a comparison which instantly rallies thought. This is why, I think, some of the greatest philosophical literature is necessarily mystical and why, again, the mystical transcends the scientific. Wisdom, in this way, stands as an intuitive knowledge which makes use of one’s capacity to grasp and relate the natures of things. Indeed, the more I consider it, the more I see that the most poignant expressions in language are metaphorical. All popular statements of intellection are, for instance, metaphors for tactile comprehension – “seeing” clearly, “grasping” a concept, “tasting” truth, “ringing” a bell. Comparisons of emotion to weather, of relationships to games, etc. all stand similarly.
Prose, then, is an image of our world constructed narratively. Where poetry is largely a metaphysical microcosm, prose is more physical. In narrative, ideas are not condensed and coagulated into words but, rather, into agents. The emphasis, herein, is upon the interaction of agents in the world as opposed to language which images the world. It is, in this way, just as anthropocentric, albeit in a different manner. Drawing too, in a very unique way, is an image of the world constructed, well, through an image! Here the abstractions of light and shadow are congealed into tonal difference, whether that be through the laying on of charcoal into a space to mimic shadow, or the mere drawing of a line to designate where an object begins and ends. There are no lines on the human face and yet, when I drew it as a child, I inevitably drew it as a set of lines, particularly at the nose and lips. Cartooning, then, is as poetry is to prose. To heighten metaphysical characteristics, tones and shapes are exaggerated along metaphorical lines, eyes made absurdly large to characterize cuteness, for instance. Purples might be placed on a tree to designate the depths of weather or to contrast it against a character. Animation, then, poeticizes the moving picture by making movement metaphorical.
I think one can, then, assert two sorts of creativity. On the one hand stands creativity which merely captures the world – realism. On the other stands creativity which captures how we feel in this world – expressionism or stylism. These categories are illusory and, really, blend seamlessly into each other. There is, however, a novel difference evident, for instance, in a photograph of a river and Monet’s “Lillies.” The expression evident in the latter’s medium augments its subject, both where subject is taken to mean what is visible in the art and that which the art is to point towards. Concerning the former understanding of subject, “Lillies” or to use another cliche expressionist painting, “Starry Night,” depicts not as the eyes normally see, but as the self feels before the subject being depicted. Medium, then, is an attempt to capture life in something outside of itself. It is, in this way, Godhood. A mere photograph can cause similar feelings, absolutely. But insofar as a photograph is a replication of reality without an added medium to convey emotion, it is deficient in its capacity to express. In this way, both what is seen and what is felt converge by virtue of the expressive medium just as what is seen and what is felt converge by virtue of reality itself when one experiences anything, especially the sublime.
The realistic can generally be extended to prose, photography, videography. The expressionistic or stylistic can, then, be extended to poetry, drawing or design, and animation. Between these two categories stands the performing arts which, depending on how they are laid out, can either be realistic or expressionistic (eg. Importance of Being Earnest on the more realistic side vs. Cats and Cirque de Soleil on the expressionistic side). These extensions are make-shift, of course, and they deny subtleties like functionality and utility, especially as evident in architecture, cookery, and clothing design. Here, alternate branches in this two-parted tree of creation must be grown at a later time, as the interaction of man with his creations in a distant and immediate manner (where utility generally allows for greater immediacy) is an entirely different matter. The above must be understood as extensions of distant appreciation of creation, creations which we do not necessarily engage with per se.
One thought on “Creation, Comparison, and Godhood”
I’m not sure if you have ever studied Linguistics, but what you mentioned about metaphors being related to Philosophy is a very very good correlation. We study the meaning of words and sentences in Semantics and seeing this world of meaning build itself in the mind of a speaker is fantastic! There’s a theory called “Nanosyntax” that covers this nicely – it creates a basic logical tree of how linguistical knowledge is formed. I have a paper on that, where I studied the distinctive ability that English has of turning nouns into verbs without changing the morphology of a word.
When we study Semantics, we touch on a bunch of aspects of the Philosophy of Linguistics, one being Aristotle’s reflections on language patterns and Grammar – a discussion that thousands of years later, with Saussure, became so relevant, it turned into this amazing science called Linguistics.
In the cognitive field, we study how different brains interpret a certain language and how we can universalize meaning in Semantics. It’s very interesting to see, especially if you’re working with language teaching, acquisition or reacquisition.
Applying all this knowledge of Linguistics when studying Literature seems like a big challenge, but because language is so inherent for us, it’s not really that difficult. After all, I guess we can both agree that Literature is just a bunch of really smart people who know how to bend their words just the right way (born-Linguists, you could say).
I enjoyed reading this a lot. Once again, eh?