How Our Minds Were Once Shaped By Poetry
We often now picture our minds in unsound ways. They’re built to resonate to poetry. We’ve all but lost the memory of poetry’s historic role in molding minds (that’s the unsung pretext of Plato’s poetry ban). Poetry is a key cognitive technology , so powerful it was the Internet of its time.
Jag Bhalla is an entrepreneur, inventor and writer. His current project is Errors We Live By, a series of short exoteric essays exposing errors in the big ideas running our lives, details at www.errorsweliveby.com. His last book was I'm Not Hanging Noodles On Your Ears, a surreptitious science gift book from National Geographic Books, details at www.hangingnoodles.com. That explains his twitter handle @hangingnoodles.
Few now sing the praises of when poetry shaped us. Its history of molding minds is almost lost (it lasted till prose, and its logic, could last). That’s the unsung pretext of Plato’s poetry ban.
1. You and I are both, right now, using the “most momentous” technology ever (Ong). It changed thinking itself. All other tech needs it.
2. It’s hard to imagine life before the technology of text. But before alphabetic writing, poetry was the one way to store and share bulk information.
6. Without text, what isn’t frequently repeated, is lost. Nontext cultures still record what matters by setting repeated formulaic phrases to a beat. Your lyric memory and “earworms” testify to its effectiveness.
8. Text-free cultures think differently, they’re concrete “image-thinkers,” with situational (vs abstract), aggregative (vs analytic), and participatory (vs objective) thinking patterns. We all start similarly, then learn text-centric thinking.
10. Poetry’s effects were “the exact opposite of rational objectivity.” It transformed you by “mimesis”—you “became Achilles,” absorbing his ethos. This mimesis was “essential to education,” but dangerous.
11. Plato saw how art could manipulate behaviorally dominant unreasoned emotions. Art usually glamorizes or ghettoizes something, even if unwittingly (see beauty vs duty). Plato grasped better than many now how emotions and reason interact.
12. Plato knew “the gods... have the character that the poets… give them” (Gass), so he “waged the first media war" (McLuhan). Philosophy needed “exotic new skills of abstract thought and objectivity,” which meant breaking oral-poetic thinking patterns.
15. Our text-centricity pictures our minds in unsound ways. They’re built to resonate to poetry. Its memorable mind-formative phrases still matter more than many now think.
Illustration by Julia Suits (author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions) modified by Jag Bhalla (using Lyre Clip Art from vector.me, by papapishu).
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"
- A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.
There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.
Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.
- Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
- While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
- Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.