8:11 a.m. — Atlanta
Hello! I just spent an hour writing a discourse on self and realised that there was no way I could then ask you to attempt a prompt. Too many things I am asking you to think about and consider. Also, that would make the post the longest I have ever written. Instead, I will give you an opening prompt focused on self and what you think it is, in the abstract, rather than personal. On Thursday, no announcements, but, instead, the discourse.
Good, I feel better. I was worrying about length and your poor brains. The following is a collection of statements about self. They range from the philosophical to the provocative. Choose one and jot notes on, or freewrite, your agreement, or disagreement, with the attitude taken. Or, link several. Remembering that form = content, decide on the format that suits the point of view you are advocating and write a poem. You may refer to the statement[s], but, in most cases, it would intrude. You are using them as a springboard.
I know that I exist; the question is, what is this ‘I’ that I know? (Descartes, 1641) Or,
I think, therefore I am. (Descartes)
The soul, so far as we can conceive it, is nothing but a system or train of different perceptions. (Hume, 1739)
What was I before I came to self-consciousness?… I did not exist at all, for I was not an I. The I exists only insofar as it is conscious of itself… The self posits itself, and by virtue of this mere self-assertion it exists. (Fichte, 1794–5)
The ‘Self’’… , when carefully examined, is found to consist mainly of… peculiar motions in the head or between the head and throat. (James, 1890)
The ego continuously constitutes itself as existing. (Husserl, 1929)
Any fixed categorization of the Self is a big goof. (Ginsberg, 1963)
The self which is reflexively referred to is synthesized in that very act of reflexive self-reference. (Nozick, 1981)
The self… is a mythical entity… It is a philosophical muddle to allow the space which differentiates ‘my self’ from ‘myself’ to generate the illusion of a mysterious entity distinct from… the human being. (Kenny, 1988)
A self… is… an abstraction… , [a] center of narrative gravity. (Dennett, 1991)
My body is an object all right, but my self jolly well is not! (Farrell, 1996)
An actor’s instrument is the self. [[Joan Juliet Buck]
The easiest person to deceive is one’s own self. [Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873) The Disowned. Chap. xlii.]
“When Thales was asked what was difficult, he said, ‘To know one’s self.’ And what was easy, ‘To advise another.’” [Diogenes Laërtius (fl. early 3d cent.) Thales. ix.]
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou can not then be false to any man.
[William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Hamlet Act i. Sc. 3.]
To cure jealousy is to see it for what it is, a dissatisfaction with self, an impossible claim that one should be at once Rose Bowl princess, medieval scholar, Saint Joan, Milly Theale, Temple Drake, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one’s sister and a stranger in a pink hat seen once and admired on the corner of 55th and Madison—as well as oneself, mysteriously improved. [Joan Didion “Jealousy: Is It a Curable Illness?” Vogue Jun 61]
People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something that one finds. It is something that one creates. [Thomas Szasz The Second Sin Doubleday 73]
The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. [Margot Fonteyn Margot Fonteyn Knopf 76]
Wait for those unguarded moments. Relax the mood and, like the child dropping off to sleep, the subject often reveals his truest self. [‘Barbara Walters On interviewing,’ Christian Science Monitor 10 Dec 79]
[There is a need] to discover that we are capable of solitary joy and having experienced it, know that we have touched the core of self. [Barbara Lazear Ascher Playing after Dark Doubleday 86]
The tension between “yes” and “no,” between “I can” and “I cannot,” makes us feel that, in so many instances, human life is an interminable debate with one’s self. [Anatole Broyard NY Times 13 Jan 76]
It is true that the poet does not directly address his neighbors; but he does address a great congress of persons who dwell at the back of his mind, a congress of all those who have taught him and whom he has admired; they constitute his ideal audience and his better self. [Richard Wilbur, ‘Accepting National Book Award,’ NY Herald Tribune 24 Mar 57]
To “know thyself” must mean to know the malignancy of one’s own instincts and to know, as well, one’s power to deflect it. [Dr Karl A Menninger Vogue Jun 61]
Come back and post a link to your poem. I suspect these will be fun to read. Have fun with what you write and how you write it.
I shall see you Thursday for a discourse; Friday for the roundup of prompts; and next Tuesday is an image prompt.
Happy writing, everyone.