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Eighteenth Series of the Three Images of Philosophers

First imagined as one who rises up and leaves fall from the poet tree. Call it “ascensional psychism.” Call it the risk we take in writing between or the price we pay for only seeming to be.

“‘You know very well you’re not real.’ ‘I am real!’ said Alice, and began to cry. ‘You won’t make yourself a bit realler by crying,’ Tweedledee remarked.”

He’s right, there are philosophical diseases, and they leave lesions too. Fear of heights, for instance. I heard a rumor once of an acrophobic Platonist who repeatedly tried to commit suicide by throwing himself out his basement window.

But why not burrow, the second image asks? To go under, beneath, below, to be a spelunker of the soul and become one who rediscovers depth. Yet he couldn’t conquer the surface streets of Turin, which drew him down to their cobbled breast. Knowing not who he had on his hands, the doctor could only sigh and write “Claims he is a famous man and asks for women all the time.”

But the third expects salvation from neither above nor below. “Rather, they expect it laterally, from the event, from the East—bringing a new kind of anecdote, a new logos animated with paradox.”

Does such a claim call for an anecdote or an antidote? And which image fits the I of these tirades?

  


—Paul Naylor

Paul Naylor is author of Poetic Investigations: Singing the Holes in History and two chapbooks of poems, Book of Changes and Arranging Nature.

Originally published in the December 2003/January 2004 issue of Boston Review



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