I dream in dragons, which I took to in my heart or was it mind - this 心 that can also stand for nervous and spirit. But these were not any dragons, but literary ones and not from stories but where the dragon is symbol for the embellishment of the written word: carved and engraved like so many jade creatures of the heavens (in the East, the dragon is auspicious).
This is a faraway preamble to 文心雕龍, the fifth century Chinese book on literature, translated in English as The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, which is not quite the same as the alternative: The Heart of Literature and the Carving of the same. For the book also argues for a kind of writing which is not entirely produced by the logical mind. For example, a writer is to let inspiration flow according to the Way-wherein things issue forth from nothingness. This may bring associations of ex-nihilo wherein man is the microcosm enacting an aspect of creation, in an example of what Robert Neville calls "parallel sensitivities". And in the adaptation of nothing, to return to the Tao Te Ching, we might think of sensitivities in a different way, the sensitive perception of sympathies, which is not necessarily a rational recognition    but a natural one. The author of 文心雕龍, Liu Xie, argues in this way that the writer is to be true to his or her personality.
The recognition of similarity, or parallelism, is to emerge from within if it is to be natural. We could say that in this way, the writer is to feel and think for his or herself, seeing connections where others might not. The parallelism could be described as figures of speech as much as of thought-and as the former are released from their literal confines, they require imagination to be formed, so we may now argue about where the imagination resides, is it found in the mind? What is inspiration? I put it in 心. It has to be, at least in Taoism, somewhere outside of the rational mind: the Way is had only when it is not grasped.
After Liu Xie writes of parallelism (ch. 35), he addresses polysemy and multivalence (ch. 40), which he describes as the "hidden beauties" of a text, "comprehended indirectly through secret overtones, which unobtrusively reveal hidden brilliance ...  such that common readers will have unlimited responses, and connoisseurs will never grow tired of it." The well-written text resonates.

Yet for such hidden correspondences and parallels to emerge, it happens that the dragon is also carved by a rational hand. The character 文 itself first meant "natural beauty", then the Confucian understanding of "culture", and finally "literature". This etymology is indicative of the traditional set of opposites thought to form literature: literature itself is opposed to raw material; sentiment to the decorative; reality in a work to its embellishment; tradition to what is new (etc. - it is noted that while the writer is invited to novelty s/he is warned that newness without reliance on tradition is but trend). In fact, parallelism itself reflects cosmic order as all natural things have their own parallels. Written examples emerged first spontaneously, later occurring more logically, with comparison and contrast its best type.
By way of summary, one might wish to speak of what is at the heart of literature here. "Parallel sensitivities" between natural and written beauty.
In this way, 文心雕龍 supports at once an ordered universe or may be compared to Lucretius' Nature, depending on who is writing and when. In this way, too, it is possible for some to assemble books to review under the header reading is not always good for us - with the tagline: "Somewhere along the line, an orthodoxy hardened: ... reading ... will make you healthier, stronger, kinder. But is that true?" - while others work for low pay, after prior and diametrical work experience, due to their passion for books as particularly promising for those who wish to call themselves literate. It is why, according to said review, one reviewed book's author can dismiss Middlemarch as "a melancholy dissection of the resignations that attend middle age, the paths untrodden and the choices unmade" [may be quoted out of context] while others might see it as the literary paean to science, wherein the life is taken to microscope for some moments. What does the data say? That the modern-day Theresa may be unseen except for her reflecting light in the faces that surround her: that is the modern spiritual trial, to keep some kind of inspiration to persist despite all the pessimism and uncertainty.
In any case, if one is to craft words as dragons, that fertile beast, according to 文心雕龍, there is to be balance to all oppositions. Heart and mind. 心.
(I first blogged about 心 here.)

No comments:

Post a Comment