Monday, March 12, 2007

knowing Auden

I worked again yesterday, which meant a day away from the kiddies, who have been sick and whiny or not sick and whiny, depending on your take.
And, as always happens when I get away from the kids after they've been suffocating, I feel I have a lot to get off my chest.
Also, as often happens when they're home and not doing much more than watching movies and drifting in and out of sleep, I read a bunch.
Here's my friend Wystan Hugh Auden again (I wonder what his friends called him - I'll look it up, maybe):

...[I]n our culture, we have all accepted the notion that the right to know is absolute and unlimited. [...] We are quite prepared to admit that, while food and sex are good in themselves, an uncontrolled pursuit of either is not, but it is difficult for us to believe that intellectual curiosity is a desire like any other, and to realize that correct* knowledge and truth are not identical. To apply a categorical imperative to knowing, so that, instead of asking, "What can I know?" we ask, "What, at this moment, am I meant to know?" -- to entertain the possibility that the only knowledge which can be true for us is the knowledge we can live up to -- that seems to all of us crazy and almost immoral.

*It makes more sense to me if the word were "complete" - editorial error? Or just me? In other words, I have the feeling he originally wrote "complete knowledge and correct knowledge are not identical" and in the rewrites got things jumbled so he ends up contrasting correct knowledge with truth.
Either way. What a thinker (and feeler). Some day I ought to read his poetry.

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