Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Dream of Genius

A Dream of Genius (2014)
Soph Laugh

                        Be not afeared: the isle is full of noises,
                        Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
                        Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
                        Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
                        That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
                        Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
                        The clouds methought would open and show riches
                        Ready to drop upon me, that, when I waked,
                        I cried to dream again.
                                                  (William Shakespeare, The Tempest 3.2.132-40)

Winged Horses (2014)
Soph Laugh

The Platonic dream of ascent toward the Heavens elicits a demurral in the modern spirit. We “recognize” but do not necessarily “participate” in the figurative ascent on noble, winged horses of the gods; soaring upward until we become the rulers of the universe. In this case, our forbearance works like the light of the sun on Icarus’s wings, bringing us back down to earth, where we settle on solid ground.

            The intellectual leap one must make in order to imagine a Platonian ascent into that non-material abstract form, known to us through sensation, requires our evocation of an imaginative eidos. In the Husserlian sense of “essence,” the idealization of forms, the pastoral retreat, the ideal Republic, the Golden Age that sparks genius, we must depart from solid ground, relying only upon our senses to guide us upward where we might formulate a possible solution to the problem of universals.

            In metaphysics, the problem of universals refers to the question of whether properties exist, and if so, what they are. Properties are qualities or relations that two or more entities have in common. The various kinds of properties, such as qualities and relations are referred to as universals. For instance, one can imagine creating a musical composition that has in common the quality of being inspired or exemplifying genius, or one can refer to complex thoughts that have in common being the essence of that force which animates one toward the creative expression deemed 'genius'.

            The “descent” toward earth highlights what is cast in shadow by the major conflicts of mind, which reluctantly affirm and pay tribute to restraint and stoicism; the belief that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge. Given that we cannot claim authority over knowledge, we must bow in reverence to that very essence or quality which gives rise to it. Consequently, our “ascent” toward knowledge is perceived as a false conquest, a dream-like encounter with that which can only be reached by virtue of our imagination. 

Liberating Imagination (2014)
Soph Laugh

            The possibility of transcending this dream-like ascent into the very essence of existence to the point where human understanding is illuminated is hotly debated, but that does not prohibit one from attempting to understand why the sun rises, why we exist, or from whence arise the forces that animate the material universe.

            Separating genius from the individual is akin to the noble escape from the environs of earth toward the musical spheres of the heavens. Hearing even a faint mellifluous sound echoed in our minds gives us hope that transcends our arrogance, our self-aggrandizement, our self assurance and certainty of things. The timbrel’s thunder quiets Calibran into servitude, the sound of the drums sweet and high exalt the architecture of our minds, and the protective and benevolent design that is mimetic of cosmic logos becomes accessible in the duplication of its reality implicit in the physical state.

                        I prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow;
                        And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts,
                        Show thee a jay’s nest, and instruct thee how
                        To snare the nimble marmoset (The Tempest, 2.2.157-60)

Conjuring Bunnies (2014)
Soph Laugh

            As Caliban conjures the creatures of the island and echoes them, so too do we conjure genius and echo it in our thoughts and productions. The explorers of genius contort themselves in straining to see beyond natural presence. One is rewarded for this transcendent impulse by seeing only his own image on the surface of it. This accomplishment climaxes when he mirrors or mocks the image he thinks he sees. The ineluctable fact of uncertainty tests his exalted aspirations and reminds him of the comic aspect of belief, claims, and knowledge. For both explorer and the essence being explored, the aim is art, or song, and the resultant creation or note becomes the echoing sound of hope, whistling in one’s ears.

                        Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heav’ns joy,
                        Sphear-born harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers,
                        Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ
                        Dead things with inbreath’d sense able to pierce,
                        And to our high-rais’d phantasie present,
                        That undisturbed Song of pure concent,
                        Ay sung before the sapphire-colour’d throne
                        To him that sits theron
                        With Saintly shout, and solemn Jubily,
                        Where the bright Seraphim in burning row
                        Their loud up-lifed Angel trumpets blow,
                        And the Cherubick host in thousand quires
                        Touch their immortal Harps of golden wires,
                        With those just Spirits that wear victorious Palms,
                        Hymns devout and holy Psalms
                        Singling everlastingly;
                        That we on Earth with undiscording voice
                        May rightly answer that melodious noise;
                        As once we did, till disproportion’d sin
                        Jarr’d against natures chime, and with harsh din
                        Broke the fair musick that all creatures made
                        To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway’d
                        In perfect Diapason, whilst they stood
                        In first obedience, and their state of good.
                        O may we soon again renew that Song,
                        And keep in tune with Heav’n, till God ere long
                        To his celestial consort us unite,
                        To live with him, and sing in endless morn of light.

                                                                       (At a Solemn Music, Milton)

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