Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for July 22nd, 2018

Proteus and Poseidon

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Questions structure and, so, to some extent predetermine answers…Proteus is a good figure for this. You remember that Proteus was a minor sea god, a god of knowledge, an attendant on Poseidon. Poseidon is the ocean, the total view, every structure in the ocean itself. Proteus, the god of knowledge, though, is a minor god. Definite knowledge, knowledge specific and clear enough to be recognizable as knowledge, is, as we have seen, already limited into a minor view. Burke said that a clear idea is another name for a little idea. It was presumed that Proteus knew the answers—and more important The Answer—but he resisted questions by transforming himself from one creature or substance into another. The more specific, the more binding the question, the more vigorously he wrestled to be free of it. Specific questions…merely turn into other specific questions…But the vague question is answered by the ocean which provides distinction and nondistinction, something intellect can grasp, compare, and structure, and something it can neither grasp, compare, nor structure.

A.R. Ammons, “A Poem is a Walk”

Written by nevalalee

July 22, 2018 at 7:30 am

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