Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for September 22nd, 2018

The western steam engine

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[The] Western cast of mind [is] a compartmentalizing habit of thought which periodically selects aspects of human emotion, phenomenal observations, metaphysical intuitions and even scientific deductions and turns them into separatist myths (or “truths”) sustained by a proliferating super-structure of presentation idioms, analogies and analytical modes. I have evolved a rather elaborate metaphor to describe it; appropriately it is not only mechanistic but represents a period technology which marked yet another phase of Western man’s comprehensive worldview.

You must picture a steam engine which shunts itself between rather closely spaced suburban stations. At the first station it picks up a ballast of allegory, puffs into the next emitting a smokescreen on the eternal landscape of nature truths. At the next it loads up with a different species of logs which we shall call naturalist timber, puffs into a halfway stop where it fills up with the synthetic fuel of surrealism, from which point yet another holistic worldview is glimpsed and asserted through psychedelic smoke. A new consignment of absurdist coke lures it into the next station from which it departs giving off no smoke at all, and no fire, until it derails briefly along constructivist tracks and is towed back to the starting point by a neoclassic engine.

This, for us, is the occidental creative rhythm, a series of intellectual spasms which, especially today, appears susceptible even to commercial manipulation.

Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World

Written by nevalalee

September 22, 2018 at 7:30 am

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