Poetry & Nature: Life Feels Itself

An examination of the poetic view of nature.  Unlike calculative thinking, the vision of poetry starts from a position of the interconnectedness of life.

This episode complements the previous episode on poetic vision.

I. Poetry does not try to reduce or condense life

We begin with a recitation of Pablo Neruda’s Enigmas (in English translation). Then we discuss this poem in the context of the film “Mindwalk.” (We previously discussed “Mindwalk” in episode seven.) This example of the poetic vision points toward the futility of representing nature from the outside. Poetry does not attempt to represent life, but to present it. The poet in Mindwalk, Thomas Harriman, recognizes that “Life is not condensable. Life feels itself.” Therefore, attempts to control or understand nature by “sets of words” are doomed to failure.

II. A Goethean view of nature: Tobler

We then explore the ‘Nature’ essay often mistakenly attributed to Goethe. The essay, influenced by Goethe, is from his Swiss theologian friend, Tobler. While the essay itself does not touch on poetry, it outlines what one might consider a poetic view of nature. Tobler’s essay describes a participatory vision of life and nature.

III. Language

As we discuss the conclusion of Tobler’s essay, language comes into view. Tobler explains language as having an inherently participatory dimension. Participation is then defined in terms of love. Love, for Tobler, is the way to nature. We also look at this idea in connection with Heidegger’s notion of care as our Dasein.

Additionally, we do not have care, we are care. Similarly, I would say, nature does not have a relationship of interconnectedness to beings, including human beings, it is interconnectedness.

IV. Participatory thought is necessary to understand Tobler (and by extension, Goethe)

If one approaches this essay from a Cartesian perspective, one will not understand it. This presentation presumes a phenomenological point of view. Rather than a solipsism resulting from a subject-object dualism, this vision is of dynamic interconnectness. It is a vision of the whole, with the parts reflecting the whole, and also our participation in it. Finally, we explain this further via Goethe’s Faust and Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “It was a hard thing to undo this knot.”


Mindwalk (1990) [Eng Captions–Spanish, Romenian]

Enigmas – Poem by Pablo Neruda translated by Robert Bly

It was a hard thing to undo this knot – Gerard Manley Hopkins

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