Friday, September 11, 2009

Quickly: On a line of poetry, vaguely recalled, by Robert Hass

It goes:

Language is a moral cloud-chamber, through which the world passes, emerging charged with desire.

I love that line. It is lovely, perhaps for its imagery. I imagine that shiny earth passing into a mist, within staticky exchanges of electricity go back and forth. The earth comes out of the cloud, and the remaining films of the cloud pull away.

But what does Hass mean my "moral" cloud-chamber (and why do I insist on hyphenating it? and I do)? I like to think that it is an image meant to correct the notion of morality as something silent, like two orbs flitting through space, self-same and immutable. Whereas good and evil are always objects of desire--and repulsion. And the desire is not there by accident, but makes good and evil into what they are. The good is always an object of desire ... and the evil is always an object of desire.

And mediocrity is the neutralizing cloth that kills all life (and desire).

1 comment:

Dr. Trott said...

I like this post.

It's not clear to me that mediocrity is the mean between good and evil. As your last line suggests. Maybe you mean something more like Hegel's the only innocence is inaction.