Saturday, February 18, 2012

Antithetical Sidelights

Nothing is less real than realism… Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986), "I Can't Sing, So I Paint! Says Ultra Realistic Artist; Art is Not Photography—It Is Expression of Inner Life!: Miss O’Keeffe Explains Subjective Aspect of Her Work," interview in the New York Sun, 1922.
The Will looks into a painted picture. The Creative Mind looks into a photograph, but both look into something which is the opposite of themselves. The picture is that which is chosen, while the photograph is heterogeneous. The photograph is fated, because by fate is understood that which comes from without, whereas the Mask is predestined, Destiny being that which comes to us from within. We best express the heterogeneousness of the photograph if we call it a photograph of a crowded street, which the Creative Mind—when not under the influence of the Mask—contemplates coldly; while the picture contains but few objects and the contemplating Will is impassioned and solitary.
                                                                                   (A Vision A, 15; cf. A Vision B, 86–87)


Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.
          To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
e. e. cummings (1894–1962), letter to a high-school student, 1958.
As life goes on we discover that certain thoughts sustain us in defeat, or give us victory, whether over ourselves or others, and it is these thoughts, tested by passion, that we call convictions. Among subjective men (in all those, that is, who must spin a web out of their own bowels) the victory is an intellectual daily re-creation of all that exterior fate snatches away, and so that fate's antithesis; while what I have called 'the Mask' is an emotional antithesis to all that comes out of their internal nature. We begin to live when we have conceived life as tragedy. 
                                                                                   (Autobiographies, 189; Collected Works III, 163)

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Steve Jobs (1955–2011), commencement address at Stanford, 2005.
The antithetical Mask and Will are free, and the primary Mask and Will enforced ; and the free Mask and Will are personality, while the enforced Mask and Will are code, those limitations which give strength precisely because they are enforced. Personality, no matter how habitual, is a constantly renewed choice, varying from an individual charm, in the more antithetical phases, to a hard objective dramatisation; but when the primary phases begin man is moulded more and more from without.
                                                                                    (A Vision B, 84; cf. A Vision A, 18)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting! Do you think that all individualism is antithetical for Yeats?

Neil Mann said...

Hi, good question. To an extent, yes. But firstly, what Jobs says about not living someone else's life is what Yeats would term living "in phase" and "out of phase". In that sense being your own individual is recognizing your own groove, whether primary or antithetical. Secondly, the idea of following your inner truth, being true to yourself, as Cummings says, that kind of individualism is almost exclusively antithetical. Thirdly, however, Yeats uses his own specific terms: primary, character; antithetical, personality; Phases 8 and 22, individuality. But there's a lot more here too... I'll try to write something in the near future.