The future of the process movement depends on its poets. It also depends on its philosophers, accountants, farmers, counselors, teachers, grandmothers, rabbis, gardeners, small business owners, clowns, and musicians. But the process movement needs to be communicated with words, and the words of familiar process thought too easily become stale: "everything is interconnected," "everything is in process," "everything has intrinsic value." The problem is with the word everything. It tries to cover the all at the expense of the each, the universal at the expense of the particular. Poets can help us reclaim the primacy of the particular. Not that alone, of course. They can also communicate abstract ideas in fresh ways, and help us to become honest about the actual world in its beauty and terror. Fortunately, there are many process poets writing poetry of grace and beauty. I think of Christina Hutchinson, poet laureate of the Cobb Institute. Here I introduce you to another, imagined poet. I'll call her Julia.
- Jay McDaniel
Julia's Critique of Philosophy
“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
― T.S. Eliot
I have an imaginary friend, Julia, who is a Whiteheadian poet. She believes poetry is more communicative than philosophy because poetry (at least the kind she likes) reveals the world for what it truly is: an evanescent potpourri of occasions of experience.
Julia knows that for some people poetry is hard to understand; it seems vague or ambiguous, using so many different poetic forms. But she agrees with T.S. Eliot: "Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood."
And she adds: "Sometimes we understand more than we think we understand, especially when it comes to occasions of experience. We just don't want to think about it. Poetry helps us think."
Julia borrows the phrase "occasions of experience" from Whitehead, who believed that such occasions are very building blocks of reality. What gets in the way of philosophers, she says, are three tendencies that block their sustained attention to concrete experience and the many emotions it includes:
They prioritize clear and distinct ideas over more intuitive forms of wisdom.
They think universals are more important than particulars,
They are intolerant of ambiguity and vagueness.
She calls these the three immaturities. The mature mind, she says, knows that intuitive forms of wisdom are as important as clear thinking; that particulars are important in their own right, quite apart from any general principles they might instantiate; and that many of the most important things in life - love, silence, wonder, relationships, purposes, and hope - are vague. Mature minds know this, she says. She offers a quote attributed to Whitehead: "An overriding concern with clarity is the bane of small minds."
Julia knows that philosophers and theologians will disagree with her idea of three immaturities. Some may even believe philosophy is more mature than poetry, because it works in the world of pure concepts not images. Julia playfully counters this viewpoint, asserting that, in her perspective, the opposite holds true: poets exhibit greater maturity than philosophers. "I wish they would grow up."
Julia appreciates many different kinds of poetry: sonnets, villanelles, ballads, odes, free verse, and haiku, for example. One of her favorite haiku poems is the well known poem by Basho: An old silent pond… A frog jumps into the pond, splash! Silence again,
You can hear a philosopher or theologian say: “What does this mean? What is the point? What is the principle the poem is meant to elucidate?” And you can hear Julia saying: "That's my point. They are lost in their heads and can't hear the frog jump into the water, and the silence that comes afterwards.
- Jay McDaniel, 5/10/2023
Julia the Whiteheadian Poet
an imaginary review of her imaginary chapbook, Just a Moment, published by Pure Possibility Press
Julia's poetry, with its unique perspective on life influenced by the philosophical teachings of Alfred North Whitehead, goes beyond grand theories and abstract ideas. Instead, it immerses itself in the intricate details of each moment and object, finding profound depth and beauty in the ordinary.
Her verses capture the essence of the present moment through vivid and tangible imagery, painting pictures of the universe's splendor. But alongside the celebration of wonder and interconnectedness, Julia's poetry also delves into the depths of loss and pain. She doesn't shy away from acknowledging the presence of suffering and the profound emotions that accompany it.
Julia's words carry a poignant weight as she explores themes of heartbreak, grief, and the transience of life. While she celebrates the beauty found in the ordinary, she also acknowledges the fleeting nature of joy and the inevitability of change. Through her verses, she reminds readers that even the most beautiful moments are destined to pass.
However, Julia's exploration of loss and pain is not meant to dwell in despair. Instead, she seeks to illuminate the profound depth of human experience, inviting her readers to confront their own vulnerabilities and find solace in shared understanding. Her poetry offers a sense of catharsis and healing, encouraging the embrace of emotions, the strength found in vulnerability, and the appreciation of the beauty that persists amidst life's trials.
Julia's ability to capture the full spectrum of human emotions, from joy and wonder to loss and pain, makes her poetry a profound reflection of the human experience. Her words serve as a reminder that even in moments of darkness, there is a glimmer of light. By embracing both the joys and sorrows of life, one can attain a deeper understanding of oneself and the world.
In one of her most celebrated poems, Julia describes the dance of raindrops on a windowpane as a symbol of interconnectedness. Each droplet carries its own universe, reflecting the world beyond and containing infinite stories. Through her writing, Julia aims to capture this interconnectedness, offering her readers a glimpse of the profound unity that lies beneath the surface of everyday life.
- ChatGPT with help from Jay McDaniel
As Julia's reputation grows, she becomes known for infusing her verses with awe and reverence for the world. Her poetry inspires others to pause and truly see the beauty that surrounds them, appreciating the intricate tapestry of existence woven through each passing moment.
During a moment of profound clarity beneath a towering oak tree, Julia realizes that her journey as a poet extends beyond capturing the universe in her words; it is about embracing the universe within herself. Her poetry takes on a new dimension, becoming more introspective as she explores the depths of her own being and the interconnectedness she has come to recognize. Her words speak of the profound unity between the self and the world, transcending the boundaries of time and space. With each new poem, Julia delves deeper into the richness of her own experiences, discovering that true wisdom resides not solely in abstract ideas or philosophical principles, but in the raw emotions, fleeting moments, and tangible objects that compose life's fabric.
Julia's poetry becomes a testament to the profound beauty found in the simplicity of existence. Her words echo the whispers of the universe, inviting readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery and appreciation for the profound unity that binds us all. Through her poetry, she inspires others to see beyond the confines of the mind and embrace the infinite wonders within reach, reminding them that the universe, in all its glory, is found in the smallest of things.