Essay on What I Think About Most

I’m reading Anne Carson today; it’s a slow and difficult process, like trying to find a path through a deep and dark forest. I have to retrace my own steps all the time. Her texts are full of sadness, sorrow, and melancholic pain, but they do also unveil glimpses of hitherto unknown beauty.

And she is a master of form. Just see for yourself; here is an extract from an essay written as if it were a poem –

Excerpt from Anne Carson’s Essay on What I Think About Most (Men in the Off Hours, 2001)

And its emotions.
On the brink of error is a condition of fear.
In the midst of error is a state of folly and defeat.
Realizing you’ve made an error brings shame and remorse.
Or does it?
Lets look into this.
Lots of people including Aristotle think error
an interesting and valuable mental event.
In his discussion of metaphor in the Rhetoric
Aristotle says there are 3 kinds of words.
Strange, ordinary and metaphorical.
“Strange words simply puzzles us;
ordinary words convey what we know already;
it is from metaphor that we can get hold of something new & fresh”
(Rhetoric, 1410b10-13).
In what does this freshness of metaphor consist?
Aristotle says that metaphor causes the mind to experience itself
in the act of making a mistake. 

He pictures the mind moving along a plane surface

of ordinary language

when suddenly 
that surface breaks or complicates.

Unexpectedness emerges.

At first it looks odd, contradictory or wrong.

Then it makes sense.
And at this moment, according to Aristotle,
The mind turns to itself and says:
“How true, and yet I mistook it!”
From the true mistakes of metaphor a lesson can be learned.
Not only that things are other than they seem,
and so we mistake them,
but that such mistakenness is valuable.
Hold on to it, Aristotle says,
there is so much to be seen and felt here.
Metaphors teach the mind
to enjoy error
and to learn
from the juxtaposition of what is and what is not the case.
There is a Chinese proverb that says,
Brush cannot write two characters with the same stroke.
And yet
that is exactly what a good mistake does.

 Anne Carson. Photograph by Einar Falur Ingólfsson


Read more 

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Just this week I’ve been reading about mistakes and creativity. Here are two quotes I think you will appreciate:
    “Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature.” — Salvador Dali
    “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” — James Joyce

    1. Sigrun says:

      Oh – thank you, beautiful!

  2. I love that photo of Carson. I heard her read once; fierce intelligence there. Her work is challenging…so far, I think I favor “Autobiography of Red” and “Vox.” I read that New Yorker article when it came out, and it was surprisingly helpful in trying to get a perspective on the parts of her writing that are “hard.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.