A character in a book I was listening to during a commute one day referenced T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. That may not be correct. Perhaps a student or a colleague or a passing reference to time led me to the poems. By whatever road, I did arrive. Have I ever left, though? The very title of this incarnation of this site is so clearly an allusion to “Dry Salvages.” Nevertheless, I am back at Eliot, at the Quartets, and I have carried with me a notion to read them slowly, in pieces, as a meditation, a prayer, a practice in thoughtfulness. Less nobly, I crave a structure, a blueprint for settling my feet onto my own road, of writing, yes, but also of reading again, with a scholar’s mind and attention. I will read formally but newly historically. I am not a Crowe but a pendulum, and I shall swing, from my own thoughts to others’, too. I do not know much; I expect to know less.
Premumble complete, I’ll commence with the epigraph.
The epigraph is in Greek, two quotations from Heraclitus fragments. I am a dunce with languages, and this is the least of the forces pushing me so far from Eliot. I wanted to be a poet, once, but reading Eliot and Dylan Thomas and H.D. (and Whitman and Coleridge and, and) melted my wings. I was disappointed, in that once, but soon breathed easier, released and relieved to read without devastating comparison.
The epigraph has two quotations of fragments:
Although logos is common to all, most live as though they had an individual wisdom of their own
The way up and the way down are one and the same
When Eliot chose the first, how was he reading logos? In my classes, we describe logos as reason, as logic, the brains behind and within an argument. Is this a logos-driven argument, I’ll ask. In that context I imply logic, yes, but also critical thoughtfulness: significance, implication, possibility. Not just does this make sense now but will it continue to do so? For whom? What limitations encircle? What obstacles derail? While I think Aristotle would nod encouragingly at such talk, neither Heraclitus nor Eliot would find my freshman rhetoric sufficient to the idea. This logos is something more than a tool for argument–it is something less dependent on logic or reason and more akin to … what? Consciousness? Heraclitus suggests that “logos is common to all.” A shared thing, then. Created by all or for all? Both? I lean toward the latter, but I suspect a more subtle and complex view that is both by and for.
There are forces–linguistic, social, survival, mythic–that shape us and that we shape. Or, they seem plural. But is there a one, a single logos? Something less definable than wisdom (as if that weren’t difficult enough) and certainly not individual? A force, word, need, design, truth is held in common, but we are oblivious and move and act as if we were separate or that our experience is somehow distinct. Einstein wanted a single unifying theory, a formula that could contain the plan that moves the universe–a logos. We are unified, theory or not. We are in time and representative of time. We were and are and are to be again and always.More recently, Carl Sagan joyfully proclaims, “We are made of starstuff.” And stars are made of humanstuff.
In the beginning was logos, and logos was with God, and logos was God. Logos was with God in the beginning. Through logos all things were made; without logos nothing was made that has been made.