A greater purpose for Poetry

When I was a child, my parents often wondered where I came from. Hmm. But really, how does a poet rise from two scientists–my father had a PhD in Geophysics and my mom double majored in math and chemistry. My brother? History (his educational focus, not the state of existence).  So even I can ask the question: where did I come from?

Joking aside, I really do like science…physics anyways. I don’t get chemistry and don’t care for biology (outside of evolution and creationism). I took calculus based physics in college. Yup, I was in way over my head. I like literature more than science, but there are aspects that grab my attention. I’m actually going to be studying optics for my capstone project in grad school. But there is a disconnect between science and poetry. This blog goes deeper into the problem than I care to, but here’s a quote:

One of the great dichotomies that Carl Jung drew in his book on personality types (which is retained in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is that between feeling and thinking. Feelers are interested in human relationships, while thinkers are more interested in the objective world. Feelers are more interested in the humanities, while thinkers are more interested in the sciences.

And why can’t the two connect? Emerson saw a connection between humanity, nature, and God and labeled it the Oversoul. I think the Oversoul can be taken out of the equation, with God unifying man and nature through origin. In terms of origins, I do believe that humans were purposefully created, but I also believe the Big Bang set things into motion.  This is a tricky spot to be in: evolutionists accuse me of having bad science and some creationists accuse me of having bad faith. I don’t think I have either.

I believe in God–not a distant entity that can’t be bothered by the goings on of the planet Earth, but rather one that cares deeply about us and desires to see us choosing love above all us–and I believe that he has given us things to reveal himself, science and literature being two of them. Literature, over time, has recorded our attempts to find what’s missing, to fill a void, to achieve joy, to rise above an oppressive culture, etc. With literature, especially poetry, we have the physicalization of the spiritual, the realization of the idea, the imitation (and actuality) of creation. I also believe that God gave us science to reveal himself. From the greatness of our expansive universe to the information inscribed on a strand of DNA, I can’t accept that it just happened randomly, or even by chance. But this stance on science isn’t really popular with the Christian community. The Bible says the the world was created in 6 days, end of story. A sermon I heard at church last year presented this idea: God made things in six days–God could make an old rock look like a new rock–a three second old rock still looks like a rock!

Amen. Or not quite (I’ve gone round and round with my pastor on this, and we civilly disagree, so it’s not like I’m trying to call him out on this). Scientifically, a three-second rock is probably still glowing lava, cooling in ocean mists (oops, didn’t mean to get too poetic!). My question is, if God gave us science to reveal himself, why would he lie? I don’t believe that God has set out to trick us, so what’s the answer?

I think back to Galileo and Newton, who were coming up with really cool ideas…like the earth not being the center of the universe. These guys were persecuted by the church. Oops. Who has egg on their face on that one? I don’t mean to be anti-establishment, but the church was guilty of bad science.

What does this have to do with poetry? I think that all to often contemporary science doesn’t allow room for the supernatural, the mystical, the unprovable. I think religions often times don’t allow for evidence, questioning, and theorizing (i.e. the scientific method…I may have gotten things out of order, but hey, I’m a poet).

I assert that poetry is the unification of the two (I hope this isn’t too single-minded of me–poetry can do much more than this), taking the unseen, the supernatural, the mystical, and making it physical, taking the physical, the proven, and the tested and making it mystical and mysterious, all with the purpose of revealing the Creator.

[Edit]

I just found this quote on the top 10 reasons to attend a poetry reading:

Poetry is simultaneously emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

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8 thoughts on “A greater purpose for Poetry

  1. I am here by way of a link on Joseph Hutchison’s
    Perpetual Bird. One of my early posts at my
    Rodingeedaddee (the website given above) is
    “God’s Evolution”. I also agree with you, and so
    does President George W. Bush. Honestly. I think
    it was yesterday I found this out. AOL had a poll
    on it. I answered the poll questions. That those
    of us who believe in both a Supreme Being and
    evolution are in the minority is an understatement.

  2. Hi Brian, thanks for stopping by. Just to clarify, I don’t believe that humans evolved from a lifeless, thoughtless cell (forgive me if this is an absurd over-simplification, I’m not trying to be absurd). I hold the the viewpoint that things were created intentionally. However, things like the big bang seem to always get clumped in with evolution. This doesn’t even include micro-evolution, but that’s another conversation in itself. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Good question–and a loaded one at that. I thought about this last night while I couldn’t sleep because of having mountain dew at 7 with dinner. I want to say yes because life expectancy is up, we are bigger, stronger, and healthier than ever before. However, human traits haven’t changed much over the past, oh, five thousand years. We still have two legs, walk upright, are self-aware, capable of spiritual consideration–so I’m not sure on evolving. Also, especially in America, we are so medicated, I can’t help but to wonder if we are deteriorating or if we it’s a lifestyle catching up to us. I do think we are de-evolving as a society. With the riots in Greece, wars in the Middle East, and even protests over Prop 8 in California, people are turning to violence to get what they want. So maybe we are moving backwards emotionally. Finally, I think this current rise of humanism (again–it’s nothing new, I’m working on a blog about it) is dangerous as cultures always seem to fall when they focus on the greatness of themselves. I’m not saying we should have a national religion or be forced to worship this or that, because when people can’t choose they aren’t free. So when people begin looking at themselves as non-spiritual all physical, I think they are putting limits and barriers around what can be accomplished. So, to answer your question, yes and no! What do you think?

  4. I agree. I think is some ways we are elvoving and in others I am not so sure. In some ways we seem to have more violence and yet is some of it because we are more globaly connected? We travel more we get our news moments after something happens (generally) no lag time or not months after someting happened. This can be both good and bad.

    I guess I was looking at generations, like the Baby Boomers and some of their, I am not sure of the exact word I want, ideals (I guess) as a group they tend to be very selfish and self-centered/serving. Not all by any means but in general as a group, not as community oriented as generation before and generation x and what ever they are calling the ones after that. One thing that was mentioned at our districts big beginning of the year meeting is how much the current classes are wanting to give back to their community. Much more so than when I graduated, these kids tend to want to go into service fields, yes they want to make money but it isn’t everything they want.

    I need to go make breakfast for the girls they are telling me they are hungry. I’ll write more later.

  5. Great post and discussion.

    Joel, as you already know, we agree on the whole origins thing. By trying to be reasonable, we get caught in the middle and tend to irritate dogmatists on both sides of the argument. I have done a lot of reading: Stephen Hawking, Hugh Ross, Fred Heeren, Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, and Institutes for Creation Research, to name a few, and have come to a few conclusions:

    1 – we can never scientifically prove how the universe came to be – based on the scientific method (developed by Sir Francis Bacon, a Christian!), the only way to prove creation would be to duplicate it in such a way that anybody could do it anywhere…and oh what a mess that would be!

    2 – no origins hypothesis is sufficient unless it accounts for both the natural and supernatural – we have to be able to use both faith and reason to answer the ultimate question.

    Stephen Hawking has calculated the origin of the universe (big bang) to within fractions of nanoseconds, yet has no reasonable explanation for how the big bang happened. He admits that something outside of our reality had to have started it somehow. He presents several alternate hypotheses for natural origins in “A Brief History of Time,” but is forced to admit that they all break down at some point…yet very intelligent people keep trying.

    On the other hand, those who argue for a young universe base their age figures not on the bible, but on Usher’s chronology, developed in the early dark ages. I believe that the bible is literally true in every sense, but that there are parts that are obviously allegorical – one of the most obvious being the second half of the book of Daniel. His visions accurately predicted all the major ancient empires and their characteristics through the final destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70! Looking back, we can see that the Goat is Alexander the great and his Greek empire, the Ram is Medo-Persia, etc. In the same way, poetry can be literally true in that it reflects a feeling or state of being, even if it describes events that did not happen exactly letter by letter. Therefore, I can say that the Genesis 1 account leaves room for an old universe without making it literally untrue. If you read closely, you can see that it is two parallel accounts that go from broad to narrow – the first three days focusing on the universe at large and the second on the earth itself. It shows divinely guided progression on both levels.

    I need to go, but I have to say before I do that macro evolution is a crock of something smelly! What “evolution” we do see represents a dilution of genetic material, not the addition. Ken Ham has some very insightful writings on this, although I disagree with him on the age of the universe.

    Gotta run!

    ted

  6. I’ve read half of those guys. I wonder, do any of them talk about a potential “gestation” period in creating man? Genesis says that God created man from the dust of the earth, but my mind keeps going back to the making of the Urakai in LOTR. For example, it takes 40 weeks for a fertilized egg to grow into a baby (normally, of course, many exceptions are thankfully walking around our planet…like me!), I wonder if that is also a possibility in the original creation.

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