Saturday, February 10, 2007

A More Dense Intelligibility

Poet-geologist Jonathan Wonham's copy of Paterson finally arrived in the mail, and he has formulated some initial ideas on his blog about the relation of geology to literature, based on Randall Jarrell's description of Paterson as "a geological event" (entries so far for February 10 AM and PM). Tune in to Connaissances for more of Paterson, NJ as seen from Paris, France. Do I smell a book club coming on?
Here is a long quote from Claude Levi-Strauss from one of Jonathan's earlier blog entries. Our reflection for today!: "I count among my most precious memories . . . a hike along the flank of a limestone plateau in Languedoc to determine the line of contact between two geological strata. It was something quite different from a walk or a simple exploration of space. It was a quest, which would have seemed incoherent to some uninitiated observer, but which I look upon as the very image of knowledge, with the difficulties it involves and the delights it affords. Every landscape appears first of all as a vast chaos which leaves one free to choose the meaning one wants to give it. But over and above agricultural considerations, geographical irregularities and the various accidents of history and prehistory, the most majestic meaning of all is surely that which precedes, commands and, to a large extent explains the others. A pale blurred line, or an almost imperceptible difference in the shape and consistency of rock fragments, are evidence of the fact that two oceans once succeeded each other where, today, I can see nothing but barren soil . . . When the miracle occurs, as it sometimes does; when, on one side and the other of the hidden crack, there are suddenly to be found cheek-by-jowl two green plants of hidden species, each of which has chosen the most favourable soil; and when at the same time two ammonites with unevenly intricate involutions can be glimpsed in the rocks, thus testifying in their own way to a gap of several tens of thousands of years suddenly space and time become one: the living diversity of the moment juxtaposes and perpetuates the ages. Thought and emotion move into a new dimension where every drop of sweat, every muscular movement, every gasp of breath becomes symbolic of a past history, the development of which is reproduced in my body, at the same time as my thought embraces its significance. I feel myself to be steeped in a more dense intelligibility, within which centuries and distances answer each other and speak with one and the same voice."

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Blogger Jonathan said...

Hi Joe. I'd forgotten how good this quotation is! It's really at the heart of everything my blog is supposed to be about. Thanks for the link.

3:07 PM, February 14, 2007  

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