On Poets and Muses

There is a natural inclination amongst humankind to endeavour to understand that which is otherwise seemingly incomprehensible. Since man first gazed upon the winking expanse of heaven and roamed the lengths of the unspoilt earth, he attempted to unravel its fabric, chasing the golden threads of the untiring sun, as though by doing so he could cut through the fog of mystery that shrouded his existence.

It was not long before the layers of the cosmos were peeled back, its substances quartered, its causes dissected. The magic once saturating the air and the sun-kissed soil vanished. It fled from the scythes of cool rationality, away from the probing minds of insatiable men, into the nether darkness of a world not yet realized.

To be curious is to be human, but knowledge and mystery cannot exist in the same breath. To attain the one demands the sacrifice of the other. And so we seek, we struggle, we pry into the mysteries of the world, scattering their remains among the aether—or, at least, the realm once referred to as the aether, but now anotomized and analyzed and demoted to little more than a succinct definition in an unread science textbook.

Mystery, like myth, has been cast aside like a rejected remnant of yesteryear, too antiquated, too primitive, too naive to find a place in enlightened modern thought. We have killed the gods. Their remains lay scattered upon Olympus. The muses have long fallen silent. The sprightly nymphs have forgotten how to dance. And somewhere in the woods Orpheus weeps because the song of the stars is muted. Knowledge, we forget, comes at a cost. When we explained the cosmos, we snuffed the stars.

There is poetic fittingness in knowledge, but it is ever more so a rare and beautiful thing to embrace that which defies definition. Love, joy, beauty—what are these but matters of the soul for which the mind has no answer. A thing is beautiful not because it possesses the requisite parts to meet such a standard. A thing is beautiful because it is. It offers no explanation for its existence. It does not demand to be understood—it does not even demand to be acknowledged. It asks only to be delighted in.

There are few greater tragedies than a lover who demands of his beloved the reason for her existence, who seeks to justify his love for her, as though she were a cheap ornament whose worth could be measured by her utility. There exists no rationale for his love, just as there is no reason for the beauty of the sunlight creeping through darkened clouds to kiss fields of gold. Nor should there be. The heart does not share quarters with the mind; it does not have to play by its rules.

So much is lost when we reduce what we cannot comprehend into words we can understand. Philosophers may seek to unravel the world thread by thread, vivisecting even the human heart in order to reduce it to a trite definition, but only Poets understand that life’s beauty is found precisely in its mystery. The mind cannot weigh the currency of the soul. Begrudge not mystery for delighting in itself.

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