The Poet in Man

Light of truth

G.K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy: “I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist’s pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.” Kierkegaard expressed the homesickness of human being as a disease of dread and agony. This Chesterton expressed poetically, “that mad and quickening rush by which all earth’s creatures fly back to her heart when released.”… “Human beings emotional life casts off certain artificial constraints. Poets and children are accustomed to look more deeply into reality than anthropologists and historians. Religion and ethics are rooted in ‘wonder about existence,’ in the fascination‘that something exists at all.’” Such feelings result out of the wonder of being-in-the-world that is equally the basis of religion and aesthetics that also emerge from the mystical that manifests itself in a world-view sub specie aeternitatis. Wittgenstein wrote: “The work of art is the object seen sub specie aeternitatis; and the good life is the world seen sub specie aeternitatis. This is the connexion between art and ethics.” The connection of ethics, religion and aesthetics is especially striking. Ethics and religion are attempts to draw a sense out of life and they are nothing other than answers to the “astonishment about the existence of the world.” They are poetic expressions. Neither ethics nor religion requires language for belief, since neither can be rejected as “true” or “false.” They are expressions of a striving for meaning, a hope for the experience of an event that shows itself in the world in the form of mystical knowledge. That knowledge lies, namely, in the event that can exclusively be perceived as an unspeakable power of the mystical. It could also be said with Wittgenstein that we can name this “…meaning of life, that is, the meaning of the world …God” (NB, 11.6.16). Such experiences must necessarily be experienced by the self, for “propositions about God, good and evil, the meaning of life etc. are false propositions and these themes therefore point to the sphere that cannot be put into words, just like all propositions that show no facts.” Statements about God and religion therefore lose every meaning that they cannot convey in words. The meaning of belief is not discredited in that way.

Yet how does an individual arrive at faith? Wittgenstein can imagine a number of possibilities: faith can be accepted through education. In this case, faith is only a part of what a child learns to believe, since “the child learns to believe a host of things. i.e. it learns to act according to these beliefs.” It is also plausible that individuals are convinced of the correctness of an intuition by simplicity or symmetry. Furthermore, there is the conscious possibility of deciding for a particular system: “It strikes me that a religious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference. Hence, although it’s belief, it’s really a way of living, or a way of assessing life. Whoever develops an ethical feeling or accepts a faith no longer needs an answer for this, since he has already reached the foundation of his faith. “There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words.” They are expressed in images. What is called a thing is a symbol, which means it participates in the sacrality of that to which it points. So it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics. Propositions can express nothing that is higher. It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words.

Ethics is transcendental. It is a poetic perceptive which challenge some one’s own life: “I believe that one of the things Christianity says is that sound doctrines are all useless. That you have to change your life.”

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