Writing Is Home: The Personal vs the Political on the Spiritual Journey
At the beginning of the spiritual journey, the seeker discovers a need to learn as much as possible about one's own self. Knowing how one's physical and mental bodies work helps lay the foundation for discovering how the soul—spiritual body—works.
My personal spiritual journey has long involved an interest in writing creatively, especially poetry and songs but also essays. While the poem/song works to dramatize the truths of one's felt experience, the essay labors to state, elucidate, and support evidence for what one believes to be true about any given issue.
The spiritual journey is an individual journey. One can never know the Spiritual Reality through others but only through one's own soul. Still, the spiritual journey might also require the spiritual aspirant to address issues that are blatantly misunderstood by others.
Portrait of William Butler Yeats
A Quarrel with Myself
William Butler Yeats asserted: "Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry."
My quarrel has always been with myself, and quarreling with others has never interested me as much, especially because I hate confrontation. I much prefer writing and analyzing my own thoughts and beliefs to trying to analyze the often hastily spoken or sloppily written words of others. I say "hastily" because I do enjoy analyzing a piece of writing that has been well-thought out, organized, and when necessary as with essays, documented with reliable sources.
This writing preference has resulted in the fact that a great chunk of my writing includes commentaries about poems—both classic and modern poetry of others and my own original poems. I have determined that if my own poem creations cannot stand up to the same scrutiny that I employ in studying the poetry of other poets, I should not like to consider those works valid; thus, when I write a commentary about my own poem, the poem takes on penumbra of shelf-life that advances and enhances its original drama.
Therefore this quarrel with myself includes not only the poems/songs themselves but also the commentaries I compose about them. I believe that if more modernist and postmodernist poets would take the time to write about their own poems—even if only for their own eyes—current poetry would be vastly improved.
Rhetoric vs Poetry
The Yeats quotation remains a perceptive evaluation of the two arts: rhetoric and poetry. Yet, the essay bridges the gap between pure rhetoric and pure poetry, even as it depends in large measure on clear application of the rhetorical principals laid out in classical rhetoric.
The essayist has to avoid the rhetorical fallacies of ad hominem attacks, either-or propositions, post hoc ergo propter hoc situations, and others. The essayist may also employ poetic devices, especially imagery and metaphorical dramatizations, as well as structuring a melodious flow of a pleasant rhythm. Unless one is just spewing for the fun of venting, the essay must satisfy its readers as reasonable, polite, and moral.
Poetry's use of classical rhetorical principles is also important but for a different reason. Because poetry relies more heavily on sense awareness, it employs more images, metaphors, rhythm, and rime* than does the typical essay. Still, despite the mechanical similarities, the function of a poem and an essay remain worlds apart: one may argue with an essay's stance but not with a poem's drama.
For example, a reader might argue with a writer's claim that vegetarians should be allowed to eat honey because bees are mere agents in making the honey and not part of the product they manufacture, but one cannot argue with the poet who dramatizes fear: "Now I am milkweed silk, the bees will not notice. / They will not smell my fear, my fear, my fear" (from Sylvia Plath's "The Bee Meeting"). To argue that the speaker in Sylvia Plath's "The Bee Meeting" should or should not be fearful of bees would be ludicrous.
*Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error."
The Poetic Personal
Such is the attraction of poetry for those who are introspective and desire primarily to argue with themselves about their own personal fears or flaws. Even if a poet's poem employs a theme or image that is garnered from other people, ultimately, the poet's own self is the entity against which the poet is arguing—or about which s/he is merely making a statement—and not with/about the other individual.
The Yeats quotation, therefore, has long been one of my favorites; it offers a clear understanding of an essential difference between poetry and rhetoric. But my penchant for bringing balance and harmony to my world of writing allows me to posit the essay as a mighty centurion standing guard allowing the two to live in a virtual bliss I call home.
The Spiritual Journey and Individual Liberty
Because the spiritual path is littered with debris from one's fellows as well as one's own life, sometimes it becomes necessary to argue against the stances taken by others. But for the introspective type—the type with which I do most definitely identify—the purpose of such argument will remain a deeply personal one; although the topic may at times seem otherwise. For example, when I compose a piece such as "Republicans and Democrats Did Not Switch Sides on Race," a reader might wonder what such a topic has to do with a personal "spiritual journey."
Political positions become spiritual for two main reasons: (1) If a society gets its politics wrong, it could destroy its very existence; examples are the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, Babylon, and many others. (2) The complex act of researching history, stating and then supporting a stance regarding some issue strengthens the individual mind of the researcher/writer. Weak thinking never brought anyone to soul awareness. Because of these two points that grow on a spiritual base, I continue to elucidate my political world view on issues from time to time.
I believe strongly in individual liberty, and it becomes clear that all the societies that ceased to exist did so because of their failure to support the individual liberty of their citizens. Although I doubt that disseminating a political essay such as "Republicans and Democrats Did Not Switch Sides on Race," will greatly affect the longevity of the United States of America, I take it as a spiritual duty to correct the errors against which the essay argues. I do believe that truth eventually wins with a triumphant finality.
Whether exploring my heart, mind, and soul in a poem, or offering political arguments against the wrong-headed and evil-intended opposition to individual liberty, I am moving my feet steadily down the spiritual path to awareness and soul realization. The Divine Reality awaits and while still above ground on this whirling ball of mud, I find that for myself, "Writing is home"—where I research, study, think, compose, and meditate, following the teachings and techniques of the great spiritual leader, Paramahansa Yogananda.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes