Lavish and The Nick of Evolution(s)
Peterson’s use of the theory of evolution is Zen-like. The theory of DNA is in his DNA. The world is numinous, the octopus is as smart as a dog, which is as smart as an etc etc. In a Peterson poem, I get the sense that there are always many connections, and in this particular instance, this particular connection will be made and presented as a mental “best fit”. The otherness of the accidental can tilt into the occidental and oriental, the very casual-contemporary mixes with the courtly-medieval. But our human response is still to make and to wonder. To make images and wander in the processes of meaning-making seems a reflective capability we should in turn, reflect upon.
Previously, we looked at nature to find God. Now we look for so much of ourselves in the world, we paint our faces there among the processes of nature. Build gods in our own image. The knowledge of the Null is Thanatos itself. When faced with the processes of evolution, its brute indifference,
we gather the animals dressed in flowers and music
we open their throats since they do not pretend higher purpose. This is how far behind we are. Our mysteries. Our little ignorance.
Rituals made of nothing but surprise
as when gardenias burn in one’s presence just by touch.
I am not sure if this image refers to the blood on ones hands coming off on the flower after the ritual of killing the calf, or perhaps a mental tautology as in Stevens “Rubies by rubies reddened”, perhaps even Elliot of “roses that have the look of being looked at”. In the general image making endeavour, I also wonder if there is a buried reference to the ritual animal garlanded for sacrifice. And I wonder if it is any wonder that this animal is “missing/absent/abstract”. Also, a classic example of a scene stalled. (and all in the shades of Keats perhaps)
The Trial of Understanding Within An Unknowable Process
If our lives are lived within the “godless aesthetic” of evolution, then what “reason” can there be for our need (sic) to care for one another as human beings? In a very astute positioning, Peterson alludes to three things in the title of one poem “Trial”. I believe this to refer to (1) trial as in to test out, see if it works, takes; (2) an ordeal, (3) Kafka. It is the tone that sets the idea off for me. It is a prayer as Kafka or Beckett might have intoned, it is a waiting on mercy. A lengthy quote is perhaps required to illustrate the point:
Nothing more poignant that a being trying
to understand itself;
than a being helping another with no understanding
other than need, nothing more
than a being knowing something, caring for something
incapable of care,
than one caring for knowing so that care might be
available when needed,
when need is not wonder but a being itself.
The poem goes on to review the idea of economic progress, building larger farms, yet ruining nature, even to the idea of building a nation upon a misnamed indigenous people. In an ambiguity typical of an overall aesthetic that abhors closure, Peterson ( I think) refers to tarring and feathering in the name of profit:
A man covered in bird feathers, a field covered in corn
yet this may also refer to those self same mis-named Indians, or/and perhaps a more “earthed” way of living that might have brought us elsewhere, but that too we defeated. Although we have a ‘moral’ obligation to nature, as we are co-dependent with it, we ignore causality, and in turn we ignore reason, and in the end as always, nature in an almost comical way, will overcome us,
Black water would argue against us
Enter the alkaloids.
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