Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Brain, within it's Groove

The Brain, within it's Groove
Runs evenly-- and true--
But let a Splinter swerve--
'Twere easier for You--

To put a Current back--
When Floods have slit the Hills--
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves--
And trodden out the Mills--
(F 563)

So many people have set ideas and ideals, and I much of who we are the choices we make are things that are ingrained in us, conciously or not, from childhood. We absorb so much through our environment and through what psychologists call our "nurture" or upbringing. Recently I heard a speaker explain that we all have "stories" that we make up for the events that happen in our lives. They may be simple stories, like the ones such as "that person is a jerk" when we're cut off when driving. Other stories that we've made up are more more complex.

Still, stories are part of our lives. We have convictions, ideals, and morals. Some of these are flexible and some are practically set in stone. And then there are those beliefs that we have that are so second-nature that to have one contradicted is much like the splinter in the groove. It is a violent shift, and can leave us reeling and lost. Indeed, Dickinson is right to say that it's easier to put back a current or flood than to realign the mind that has encountered such an abrupt paradigm shift.

It's tempting to think that everything is arbitrary, or to fall into chaos internally or externally when everything that seemed one way now seems another. I believe that it's good to have an open mind, to consider possiblities. I have a great interest in parables, and I think much of Emily Dickinson's poetry contains the elements of parable. By parable I don't mean a trite story in which a comparison is made. Parables are confrontational, they invert values and reverse expectations. The ultimate goal of a parable is to take the mind within the groove and throw a splinter directly in its path. They are meant to disorient the reader, to challenge the reader to consider or embrace an entirely new perspective. Maybe that is why Jesus' teachings were so rarely embraced and why Dickinson's poetry is sometimes passed over as too challenging or too confusing. You have to want it. You have to spend time with it. And you have to make the choice to accept it or walk away.

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