Special note: The author is not addressing Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle here.
“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination – What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth….” — John Keats
Activists — in part, because their prose has become mostly soooooo boring and repetitive and ineffectual — need to tune into the capacity of the greatest fiction writers to pursue a vision of artistic beauty even when it leads them into intellectual confusion and uncertainty. An overwhelming preference for philosophical certainty over artistic beauty — which is dominant in activist writing — has to be reconsidered. The ability of the individual activist to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being must be — at the very least — a significant part of the writing equation.
When a writer is capable of dwelling in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason much can be accomplished. Some insights can only come from fully accepting half-knowledge… without aiming at or insisting upon more.
Ideology of any kind can be blind, indeed, demands that sight be averted. The mental might makes right mantra goes right on mowing down the inspirational grass that rears its lovely head from time to time among youngsters, who can see through the blind alleys their elders often push them through. They can respect their experienced elders without falling prey to the pathetic injunctions which seniors often advocate, the roads that have been taken too often without success. Dogma can be delightful and instructive and motivating and necessary, but far too often it holds one back from stirring up creative juices, precludes exploration of what’s lyrical in life, and serves as the death knell to new paradigms for movement in solidarity.
The artist — in the arts or sciences — thrives on diving into the realm of uncertainty, and presenting “findings” in an oblique (as opposed to an power point) manner.
I am speaking of Imagination here and imaginative ways in which to communicate. Two hundred years ago John Keats said — essentially — the same thing I’m saying here, but not by penning an article. He was the genuine article, germane for a reconsidering activist writing.
But one does not have to be a poet to improve on the score I’m recommending. All that’s required to make an advance is communicating in a fashion that emboldens the acknowledgement of Mystery, rather than reducing advocacy to a narrow point of view.
This is a “lesson” that should be heeded worldwide, advice that is worthwhile for anyone engaged in activist writing which is simplistic, ideologically hardened and/or devoid of respect for what I’m calling the Mystery of Life.
I wrote a piece recently for Countercurrents — not posted — which addressed this matter, using the imagery of butterflies to project my message. I have included it below my biographical and contact information below, in the hope that the editor will see fit to include it as a supplement to what’s above. I do think that my slated interaction with the radio show cited in the piece is something that readers can get on board with me over. And — over time — be given an opportunity to contribute their fresh ways of communication through that alternative media outlet in solidarity with me.
Regardless, I certainly pray that one and all will embrace The Uncertainty Principle.
Richard Martin Oxman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the founder of the Oxman Collective, which includes the work of Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel, Rachel Oxman, Valleria Ruselli and Rachel Olivia O’Connor, all of whom contributed to this piece.
Trench and Trance and Dance
by Richard Martin Oxman
“It’s tempting to find in the migratory butterfly a figure for Nabokov himself: a shape-shifting artist who travelled from Old World to New, transforming, along the way, almost beyond recognition.” — Elif Batuman
As All Quiet on the Western Front is coming to an end, a butterfly flutters over the barrel of a soldier’s gun. As the young man reaches over the WWI trench he’s stuck in to touch the butterfly, he gives his position away… and an enemy sniper is able to blow him away. I was reminded of this image by Shawn Wen’s A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause, a butterfly of a book if there ever was one, lyrical and full of light.
The German soldier’s fate is original to the 1930 film; we know that he collected butterflies as a child, and… so… we know they are dear to his heart. His heartbeats, for me, are reminiscent of Vladimir Nabokov’s love of nature, and underscore what activists sorely need… his personal off-putting politics notwithstanding.
Proactive concerned citizens these days, no matter how sweet and well-meaning, and regardless of the quality of their education and experience, almost all seem to be stuck in a trench, a hole they’ve dug for themselves with their embrace of logical positivist faithless folderol. I speak of their love of Science, their belief and trust in that relatively new phenomenon… a god of sorts for them.
Sociologists, with their facts and figures and proofs of this and that make me want to dig a hole myself, taking me and my loved ones as far away as possible from the dominant culture they’ve contributed to, making war inevitable. Ditto for far too many anthropologists too and their multiple first cousins in academia, many of whom can be seen on the front lines of protest marches, and up at the podiums, participating in the lecture circuit which keeps us all locked into a grave of unnecessary activist hopelessness.
The thrust of Science in their hopeless hands moves them to tear the wings off of butterflies to learn what makes the creature beautiful.
They are in a trance, and WE must help them to dance their way into a new kind of protest that will enable us to fly — soar — in meaningful solidarity.
I have finally hit pay dirt with a local radio station in Stockton, California, a place which I’ve spotlighted on this site long ago… after 14 long years of unrequited outreach. And I want readers to know that if they contact me about anything designed to make this a better world, I will welcome their beautiful gesture.
Together I believe we can fly with authentic hope. Dance.
Richard Martin Oxman can be reached at email@example.com. He embraces the Tupamaros’ mantra of O bailan todos o no baile nadie as a fact of life: Either everyone dances or no one dances.