Almost every day, at least several times a week, I ask myself large, trite questions like a stoned teenager discovering philosophy for the first time. I ask myself, Why are we here?
Do I have an eternal soul?
These are questions which mystics and physicists explore, and it is an exhilarating activity that often leads you to the Thinker’s High .
In The God Particle, Lederman writes about the moments all physicists experience when they explore the big questions, but in the quote below, I took out the word “physicist” and replaced it with poet, but in italics, so you know that it’s me.
The life of a poet is filled with anxiety, pain, hardship, tension, attacks of hopelessness, depression, and discouragement. But these are punctuated by flashes of exhilaration, laughter, joy, and exultation. These epiphanies come at unpredictable times. Often they are generated simply by the sudden understanding of something new and important, something beautiful, that no one else has revealed.
Asking these large questions, as silly as it may seem, is something great writers do consciously or unconsciously, and their poems and stories are like elegant equations.
Like scientists, writers want to express reality.
We want to write a haiku so intense that it will transform the reader like Borges’ Aleph into all points of space and time at once. You will get a glimpse.
I love what haikus can do to you, transform you to another space and time. They bring you there –for a flash!–then bring you back.
In my opinion, below are the two most elegant Haikus ever written:
In the ancient pond
A frog jumps into
The sound of water
Imagine a haiku that brings you everywhere in space-time at once, all places and moments .
The more Reality there is in a work, that is, the ability to transcend space-time, the more beautiful the experience of the poem.
As waste of the time it may seem, asking big questions may help a writer in moments of creativity to enter into other realms of the imagination.
And imagination is an entrance into other universes. Imagination is our wormhole into places not rooted in our experience in time and space, but which may very well allow us to glimpse the thoughts of God.
The Talmud says every good deed creates an angel.
I believe every good poem creates an angel, too, because its elegant use of language releases intense spiritual, intellectual, and emotional energy into the mind of the reader.
But beware, because if every good poem creates an angel, does every bad poem create a demon?
Probably every good poem makes an angel and a demon, and the fight they have is reflected in the work as tension.
Every good poem comes from questions that cannot be reconciled.
Why are we here?
What is the meaning of life?
I think it’s important to understand that if a writer sets out to write a poem about the meaning of life, it won’t be a very good poem. The poem most likely won’t create any demons; rather it’ll make mischievous little imps who will irritate the person reading the poem.
Do I contradict myself?
I’m not saying a writer should set out to write a poem about the big questions, but I am saying that everything we experience on a visceral, emotional, and intellectual level has its roots in questions that can never be answered but that we cannot live without pondering. And it would be well for the writer to take time just to think about the big things, the corny questions, What is my purpose? Who created us? Who has the best burritos in El Paso ?
These questions, pondered and played with while you’re taking a walk, while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store with your device firmly shoved into your pocket or purse, are fun questions to imagine. They can lead your mind away from ordinary thinking.
And like a stoned teenager asking himself the big questions, the answers you imagine might even make you giggle.
Other people in line at the grocery store might look at you funny, but who cares?