Woodpile 15 X 18 Oils by Evangeline Murray
I have been thinking about the word PREMISES today. It’s part of my attempt to teach myself how to think. (I do not think that much of what passes for thinking is thinking, really.) I have been fascinated by the word as it denotes both a locale, a place upon which something is built, and a foundation for an argument or structure of thought. It is easy to build an internally rational and consistent argument upon false premises, and the more built-up or articulated an argument is, the harder it is to discern the foundation of it, the premise upon which it has been raised. The whole edifice is so jerry-built, such a complex of ramifying and ramshackle ideas that it becomes hard to discern which of its walls are load-bearing and which are mere partitions. It seems to me that whether you serve or oppose a system of thought, you need to know that: which parts are structural, which walls are load bearing, either in order to keep them in good repair or to know with certainty where to place the charge.
In another era the artists were creators; in this one we are involved in a massive deconstruction project in order to clear some space and let the light in. I’m reminded of a section from the Hungarian poet Attila Joszef’s poem, “Consciousness”
Just like a pile of split wood,
the world lies in a heap.
Each thing is pushed and squeezed
and held in place by every other,
thus everything is determined.
Only what is not can still become,
only what will be can flower.
Everything that exists is already dying.
But maybe I am reminded of it not because the verse advances my thinking, but because it humbles it, checks it, asks me to consider how much of what I think of as structure is just accident: “just like a pile of split wood.”