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“Someone is speaking but she doesn’t know he’s there.” —Here, There, and Everywhere, The Beatles

The great Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci said truth is what we see with our own two eyes.

The Renaissance (aprox. 1400—1600) was a great and remarkable time because it threw off the fake, hearsay wisdom of Aristotle, and trusted simple looking.

But why did it take so long to chuck Aristotle? His authority lasted for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Because hearsay is how highly complex groups communicate, think and live.

Yes, reader. Hearsay is how you think. You have no choice. What else do you have? Do you think you know everything?

Love happens in the eyes.

Seduction and false love happens with words.

Words are hearsay. Professors and journalists and authors may not want to hear this, but all words, not just some, all words, all combinations of words, are hearsay.

Because we read something in the New York Times, or we hear our professor say it, we believe it to be true.

It is not that “it” does not have a very good chance for a certain amount of time to seem true; what matters is that it is an “it,” a thing of words, and what is not included in “its” carefully chosen arrangement contradicts “it,” (if the words don’t contradict themselves, which they often do).

What the “wise” words do not mention is real, but unknown.

All we get is the “it,” the words, what may possibly be believed and what easily can be believed, and this “it” is hearsay—not partially, but entirely. The writer or speaker is not necessarily lying. And if we don’t find an evidence of an outright lie, this may lull us into a false belief that it is not hearsay. But it is. Because it is made of words.  Whether it offends or not, it is hearsay.

Da Vinci was right.

And when we see the hearsay repeated—if  what we read in the New York Times, is seen again in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Economist, the Nation, the Times of India, ABC News and Fox News, we think this is somehow proof that it cannot be hearsay. 

We think the repeating makes the hearsay legitimate.

But hearsay does not escape being hearsay if it repeats.

The very opposite is true. As they say, lies travel with lighter wings.

The “fixed stars” of Aristotle was a “truth” for hundreds and hundreds of years.

But hearsay didn’t die out with Aristotle.

Today—dear reader, what do you know about the stars?

Hearsay is not necessarily a lie; it’s merely an incomplete assertion—and often it is not innocently incomplete.

True knowledge is impossible.

Ambition is not.

Hearsay is not avoided by the ambitious.  It is embraced.

Since the world is vast and complex—so much so that it cannot be grasped—-it is easy for an educated but bad person to believe that all ideas must be incomplete, since knowledge is limited—and so bad behavior is excused by the knowledge that there is finally no knowledge.

We should listen to da Vinci.  We should look.

Our lives depend on it.

The president condemns violent protest. The paper which reviles him says the president opposes all protest. Those who oppose the president read and believe the president opposes all protest. Hearsay exists when anyone, on any topic, speaks and is heard. The speaker and listener—wherever speech is present—live in hearsay.

Because all speech is hearsay, all public dialogue finds both sides are always wrong, and always right—depending on feelings.

“But the president condemned violent protest!” say the president’s defenders.

“No. We know what the president really meant: to oppose enthusiastic protest against himself and his friends!”

And on it goes.

“Enthusiastic” protest is justified, everything enthusiastic is justified, because hearsay needs to be enthusiastic to sell, to have wings, to make us feel emotional and alive.

Emotion is real. And hearsay, which is not real, becomes real, simply by wearing emotion.

Emotion, needing to be fed, begins to actively seek out greater and greater hearsay. Lies are believed—just so we can feel. Feeling, in the absence of true knowledge, is all we’ve got.

Hearsay is not merely empty talk; it does great harm—as poetry.  Yes, poetry. This is why Plato is famous for faulting it.

Emotion persuades through hearsay; emotion and hearsay make a potent mixture.

Emotion is the frightening noise of the animal—but emotional hearsay is elegantly and insidiously human.

Fear needs an object, and hearsay provides it: fear makes hearsay more effective because the blindness of fear feeds the blindness of hearsay.

Socrates, in his case against Homer in Plato’s Republic, quotes beautiful passages by the great poet Homer—which depict the Homeric gods as sorrowful and weak. Socrates complains this is a bad example for children—on a very simple level, Socrates objects to low morale; with the wisdom of the child, Socrates condemns reproduced unhappiness, or to put it more simply, unhappiness.

Plato objects to Homer and most poetry, not because it is hearsay (though it certainly is) but because it is unhappy.

We know very little. But we should know, at the least, even in the face of hearsay, that to be unhappy is bad.

Poetry is bad for very simple reasons. Socrates makes an exception to his banning of poetry in the Republic—he permits, (in his imaginary, poetic Republic) the kind of poetry which praises and depicts heroic behavior.

Hearsay with a good result is good.

It finally comes down to bravery and morale.

Aristotle claimed literary tragedy is purgative—fear stirred up by fiction somehow causes less fear. Plato felt Aristotle’s scientific justification of unhappy poetry was—hearsay.

Plato and Aristotle rarely agree.  A diligent comparison of these two is the beginning of wisdom.

The criminal, looking to advance criminality, will rejoice in poetry of fear and low morale. Producers of drama which terrify and demoralize inject criminality into art; this was Plato’s moral view.

Shakespeare’s tragedies are not good because they are filled with horror; they are good because the poetry and the plot defeat the horror. Shakespeare’s plays are like Platonic Dialogues. Good poetry defeats bad poetry. It’s confusing, It’s why Shakespeare and Plato are so good.

Hearsay also belongs to libel and slander, the real-life, legal counterpart to the kind of poetry Socrates wants to ban.

What is slander, but a fictional condemnation?   What is libel, but bad poetry?

Bad poetry and hearsay are present in mere folly.  But hearsay and bad poetry are also present in the worst kinds of crime, and the worst sorts of sentiments which lead to crime.

Poetry is serious business.

This brings us back to da Vinci and actual proof—great art looks—it uses perspective to escape the blindness of hearsay and fearful emotion.

Love, beauty, and the heroic are seen in ways just enough to be loving, beautiful, and heroic—they do not live in hearsay—which Plato and Shakespeare (slander is condemned often in the Sonnets) both believed was the greatest threat to human happiness.

Socrates invokes the simple wisdom of the child against sophistical reasoning. And further, the worth of Homer’s poetry (for poetry does have worth) emerges with greater interest and understanding in the hyper-critical testing of Homer by Socrates—who certainly understood that banning increases interest in something. Banned, poetry will be loved all the more, and the higher critical lens developed by Plato is worthy in itself, increasing the value of poetry, and the value of seeing poetry—which is seen for what it is. Criticism and poetry both need each other.

Just as the visual arts belong to the geometrical science of the world as a whole, (painting, according to da Vinci, belongs to astronomy) poetry is best judged in the same way—by how it sees (which in poetry is not very much!) and by  how it dispels hearsay in a manner which constantly keeps hearsay in view. This is why the best poets secretly write against poetry.

Hearsay is hasty in its conclusions.

Science, graceful and slow, even where things are quick, is not.

Hasty is unkind.

Haste is not efficiency.  Efficiency is a thousand times faster than rude and ignorant haste.

Science is slow, like love.

If you don’t have the patience for the philosopher Plato, hearsay will likely be your god.

You will weep.  Because you don’t hear Socrates.  But do not weep.

Happy Thanksgiving!  —Scarriet Editors November 21st 2018




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Poe, the first to clearly articulate the theory of the origin of the universe in the Big Bang (see his 1848 scientific essay, Eureka,) said a long poem does not exist.

Da Vinci—and we believe this is similar—said the point is the essence of geometry and painting.

Matter—and pain and sorrow—require relation. Put everything in a point, and you have pure spirituality without matter, and in the suffering and estrangement and separateness of the suddenly emerging explosion outward of matter (and the universe as we know it) we lose the point. Brevity is the entire concept in a nutshell—speed and speed-in-space mutually self-defining each other. Brevity is where Truth and Beauty live together. In the very word, brev-i-ty, 3 syllables sound with a velocity in precise ratio to the physical properties of the universe of that word. Brevity is the universe seen in a grain of sand, the soul of wit, and everything. Brevity is the flower genius crawls on. People who cannot stop talking are not geniuses; they make geniuses wince. Genius is the end of superfluous talk.

What if we applied Poe’s idea of brevity to life?

And not just brevity, but a decreasing dream we chase in our dreams?

Movies, for instance. We tend to remember films as a few brief scenes.

And more precisely: a favorite film tends to contain one arresting, favorite scene, and that scene contains one splendid moment we cannot forget: the scene within the scene: like the ever-fleeting moment of pleasure we, in the longer duration of our days, vainly seek—the point (invisible) within the point (slightly less invisible).

The point, as da Vinci felt compelled to tell us, has no substance—like the zero in mathematics which makes numbers exponentially increase; the point is more than infinitely small; it is smaller than small. It is nothing.

They say a great part of smoking’s addiction, or pleasure, is the fleeting, unsatisfying, nature of it, as you pull smoke into your lungs, feeling that faint jolt of warmth, the ever decreasing movement of the nicotine high, the whole strange act of the fire between your fingers, the fussiness of the habit which you own and owns you, alongside the stinky, unhealthy drawbacks—what is this pursuit but the search for the point—which exists, but does not exist—of the point, which is no point? A long smoke does not exist—though a habit of years, and all its fixings, is long.

The life of pleasure is like a pyramid.

The base of the pyramid is the sum of all our sensations.

As we travel up to the point at the top of the pyramid, with its decreasing volume, pleasure increases, and finally maximum pleasure is achieved at the top—and here at the apex of the pyramid is the vanishing point; the highest pleasure belongs to its end.

The pyramid, or triangle, belongs, as it happens, to perspective in painting; our sight, as da Vinci knew, lives in different triangles which expand outwards in mathematical precision from the eye. The point we seek is the nirvana of pleasure—but the point is also its end.

The triangulation of sight creates perspective—the soul of painting, geometry, and astronomy.

Perspective makes sudden sense of the chaos of sensation.

Ultimate pleasure is something we seek, but never find, and this motivates all movement and desire; the aesthetic translates the sweep and hurry of desire into the proportionate brevity of beauty—rather than allowing desperate desire to find the end, and its destruction.

Here is the summation of morality, art, religion, and civilization.

Limits on pleasure are necessary, but they can be either nicely, or crudely constructed.

Limits can be oppressive, and grow into a hatred of pleasure itself.

But if necessary limits on reckless and suicidal desire are hated, this can also result in loss of morals, taste, wisdom, aesthetics and vision.

Enemies of love exist on both sides.

Both sides aim for our doom—pleasure on one hand, and our protection against it, on the other.

Limits will always seem oppressive, even though they are necessary, and this is why Poe’s formula is the secret to wisdom and happiness—the idea of the brief poem enables us to love limits, and this is our salvation.

The greatest vanity of fake religion is that which puts the limitless universe within us. This is not a sign of God, but chaos. Understanding ourselves as small and limited and precise is what is truly godlike.

The brief poem is more beautiful and gives more pleasure than the long poem, for, as Poe wisely points out, we are physically unable to be greatly inspired for a long period of time.

As human beings, we are always calculating: how much expenditure of effort should I make for this amount of happiness? Is this the best bargain, the most pleasure, for my money, I can get?

And so Poe’s idea is a matter of the greatest practicality.

Now, when it comes to pleasure—the question always arises: will my pursuit of pleasure lead to all sorts of trouble? Unwise eating habits? A nightmarish, heartbreaking, violent, debilitating love affair?

But if we see that pleasure—which we blindly run after—exists in brevity, in very small pieces, or moments, we can more easily manage our reaction to its seductions.

The typical strategy is pretending seductions do not exist, or blocking them out completely. This may work for some, but not for the poet, not for the person who wants to experience pleasure.

How do we experience pleasure, yet mitigate the dangers and the follies?

By understanding the brief and elusive nature of pleasure. By understanding the seduction of pleasure (the point) is actually more real than pleasure itself (the point within the point). By managing our perception of pleasure, we can enjoy pleasure, and defy its punishments.

The first thing we need to do is to break up perception—and the experience of sensation—into brief moments of experience. The second thing is to realize this scattered existence is the real one, and all attempts to bridge moments into coherency is delusional and impossible. Coherency is based on a triangle. But this fact has nothing to do with happiness, so we should cease pretending, in these fake-profound religious sorts of ways, that the ultimate workings of life have anything to do with our happiness. Math is the answer. This is good news—math is comprehensible—and bad news—our long religious dreams are in vain.

As social creatures, who write long books, go for long walks, have long, flirtatious conversations, lie awake for entire sleepless nights, earn Ph.Ds, get married forever, make long term plans, and live in a long universe, we naturally unite moments in our minds, leaving out the less pleasurable, and more mundane, moments of the optimistic arc of our fantasies and dreams.

No matter how seduced we are, we can still reflect on how actually silly our desire is—the sweet rush of a bite of cake, which will eventually give us a stomach ache, or the grasping of that attractive body, which will eventually descend to bodily limit and boredom. But this is not to say we have to block or depress attraction—for suppression can make things worse; the strategy involves indulging in the beauty of the moment—so that beauty is experienced as it is best experienced—in its truly momentary state, where it can be appreciated without leading you into the dangers of trying to possess it—which we all know (unless we are a psychotic rapist, or some kind of debilitated addict), is impossible.

If we obey the law of brevity, we can feed our hungry minds—-and know this is all the luckiest get to have, anyway; we don’t succumb—and this is crucial—to jealousy of others, for this—jealousy of others, which is always a delusion—makes us act irrationally, more than anything else.

Gaze on that forbidden body part for a few seconds. That’s the best you will have, anyway.

Enjoy those eyes. You can never talk to them, or possess them. No one can. They belong to no one—but look at them, briefly, with pleasure.

The sun is not yours. Therefore enjoy it. It is too large to enjoy. But you can, because the sun, for you, is actually small.

Enjoy the placid and calm joy of not indulging, because actually, in stolen moments, you are indulging yourself with the greatest satisfaction. The point inside the point belongs to you. The point is not the point, but the point inside the point is yours, despite what everyone might say, those blabbing nonstop, who annoy you, those who may, or may not, be your dear friends.

Life is how you love your movie. Without being able to hold life (how it rushes by you!), you can enjoy those brief scenes, those brief moments of it—which is exactly how you enjoy your favorite films. You do get to eat your cake and have it—if you stop worshiping long movies and larger-than-life movie stars—and you make yourself in your own life by far the greatest film—which it is.

The long poem does not exist.

Only one life, with brief ones.




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