EVERY GOOD POEM CREATES AN ANGEL

Almost every day, at least several times a week, I ask myself large, trite questions like a stoned teenager discovering philosophy for the first time.  I ask myself, Why are we here?

Do I have an eternal soul?

These are questions which mystics and physicists explore, and it is an exhilarating activity that often leads you to the Thinker’s High .

In The God Particle, Lederman writes about the moments all physicists experience when they explore the big questions, but in the quote below, I took out the word “physicist” and replaced it with poet, but in italics, so you know that it’s me.

The life of a poet is filled with anxiety, pain, hardship, tension, attacks of hopelessness, depression, and discouragement. But these are punctuated by flashes of exhilaration, laughter, joy, and exultation. These epiphanies come at unpredictable times. Often they are generated simply by the sudden understanding of something new and important, something beautiful, that no one else has revealed.

Asking these large questions, as silly as it may seem, is something great writers do consciously or unconsciously, and their poems and stories are like elegant equations.

Like scientists, writers want to express reality.

We want to write a haiku so intense that it will transform the reader like Borges’ Aleph into all points of space and time at once. You will get a glimpse.

I love what haikus can do to you, transform you to another space and time. They bring you there –for a flash!–then bring you back.

In my opinion, below are the two most elegant Haikus ever written:

In the ancient pond

A frog jumps into

The sound of water

And:

E=MC2

Imagine a haiku that brings you everywhere in space-time at once, all places and moments .

The more Reality there is in a work, that is, the ability to transcend space-time, the more beautiful the experience of the poem.

As waste of the time it may seem, asking big questions may help a writer in moments of creativity to enter into other realms of the imagination.

And imagination is an entrance into other universes. Imagination is our wormhole into places not rooted in our experience in time and space, but which may very well allow us to glimpse the thoughts of God. 

The Talmud says every good deed creates an angel.

I believe every good poem creates an angel, too, because its elegant use of language releases intense spiritual, intellectual, and emotional energy into the mind of the reader.

But beware, because if every good poem creates an angel, does every bad poem create a demon?

Probably every good poem makes an angel and a demon, and the fight they have is reflected in the work as tension.

Every good poem comes from questions that cannot be reconciled.

Why are we here?

What is the meaning of life?

I think it’s important to understand that if a writer sets out to write a poem about the meaning of life, it won’t be a very good poem. The poem most likely won’t create any demons; rather it’ll make mischievous little imps who will irritate the person reading the poem.

Do I contradict myself?

No.

I’m not saying a writer should set out to write a poem about the big questions, but I am saying that everything we experience on a visceral, emotional, and intellectual level has its roots in questions that can never be answered but that we cannot live without pondering. And it would be well for the writer to take time just to think about the big things, the corny questions, What is my purpose? Who created us? Who has the best burritos in El Paso ?

These questions, pondered and played with while you’re taking a walk, while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store with your device firmly shoved into your pocket or purse, are fun questions to imagine. They can lead your mind away from ordinary thinking.

And like a stoned teenager asking himself the big questions, the answers you imagine might even make you giggle.

Other people in line at the grocery store might look at you funny, but who cares?

That Song You Can’t Get Out of Your Head Wants to Kill You.

We don’t choose the songs and tunes that loop around and around in our heads, ad nauseam, over and over again, sometimes a song so random we don’t even know why we thought of it. 

If we could choose, I certainly wouldn’t walk around the house hoping to be an Oscar Meyer wiener.

I wouldn’t have a Britney Spears tune in my head claiming, Oops! I did it again! nor would I have those children’s songs I play for my baby about an elephant balancing on a spider web.

There’s obviously a neurological explanation for why these tunes loop in our brain, a phenomenon that has been called Earworms, and it is a fact that we have no power to stop these worms from boring the same song over and over into our brains. 

We don’t choose the loops, but they have an effect on our behavior.  Yes, that is what I’m saying, the tunes that get stuck or looped in our brains influence our choices and behavior, definitely our thoughts.

If I’m going around the house all day wishing to be an Oscar Meyer wiener, that loop is going to influence my perceptions and ultimately some of the nuances involved with my decisions. In deciding what I want to eat that day, I might very well crave a hotdog, but because I’m an intelligent being and will not allow that song to influence me, I will choose instead tacos, not realizing that the taco choice has been determined by the loop in my head as well.  

Hot dog lead me to choose tacos, because in some unconscious neural connection, hotdogs is to Americana as tacos are to Mexicanidad, so in rejecting one my mind goes directly to what is coded in my network as the opposite.

If that Oscar Myer song hadn’t been in my head all day, I might very well have eaten a salad.

This is a form of priming,  a concept in psychology that shows how people can be made to act a particular way by giving them unconscious signals.  For example, if you give people a word test, and on that test the psychologists embed words that seem to be random but that have a pessimistic view of life, sadness, depression, and you give another group the same test but with words that were more positive, hopeful, happy, after the test is over, those who were given positive words behaved differently from those who had been given negative words. 

The participants are influenced in their thoughts and choices, even when they don’t know it.

These song loops that play in our mind over and over again have the ability to prime our cognitive experience for that day.

I know this may sound crazy, and that’s OK, but priming is a fact –if you consider facts to be evidence, overwhelming evidence.

Say it was the Britney Spears song looping back over and over again in my head all throughout the morning and the afternoon and even into the evening, Oops, I did it again! 

I am statistically more likely to make daring choices that day than I otherwise would, because my brain keeps telling me, Oops! I did it again! 

What the heck, I might say to myself, Do it again! 

Maybe this is a good reason to avoid too many drinking songs, like Thurgood’s One bourbon, One scotch and One Beer.

With drinking songs looping around in my head over and over again all day long, you could guess what I am likely to do after a hard day work on my drive home, stop at the pub, a decision that I am not really making but that is programmed into me by this loop. 

I think I’ll leave it to the neuroscientists to figure out how the brain works it’s mechanism, but what I’m concerned with is one important question:

Who’s choosing the songs that get stuck in my head? 

It ain’t me.