Saturday, December 06, 2008

Generosity of spirit ...

... Gifts That Keep on Giving. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Two thoughts occurred to me while I was reading this. One had to to do with Henry Miller, who borrowed a lot during his lean years, and who says somewhere that he never bothered to repay any of it. Instead, when he had the means, he passed it on to others in need.

The other thought was occasioned by this passage:
The Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz once reflected on the Greek concept of storge, the kind of affection that a parent feels for a child or that teachers might feel toward their students. It is also possible, Milosz wrote, “that storge may be applied to the relationship between a poet and generations of readers to come: Underneath the ambition to perfect one’s art without hope of being rewarded by contemporaries lurks a magnanimity of gift-offering to posterity.”

Milosz's uncle, the poet Oscar Milosz (who wrote in French), begins his Ars Magna with an Epistle to Storge. In a brief forward to this work, the author notes that "by a coincidence which is striking enough to merit the attention of men of science, the Epistle, the fruit of essentially metaphysical meditations on movement, contains all the general conclusions which have been drawn from Einstein's theory by its commentators; space, identified with matter, is presented here as a solid, time as its fourth dimension and the Universe as a limitless but finite body, the components of which can be situated only through a relationship binding them to each other." The Epistle was written in 1916 and published the following year. "At that time the author knew neither of Einstein's theories nor even the great mathematician's name."

Czeslaw Milosz, in the introduction to The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O.V. de L. Milosz, observes that "in his treatises The Metamorphosis of Plants and A Theory of Colors, Goethe intended to provide an alternative to the 'empirico-mechanico-dogmatic torture chamber' (to use his expression) of quantitative knowledge ..." He also quotes Erich Heller's quotation of a review Goethe wrote of a scientific work: " A man born and bred in the so-called exact sciences will, on the height of his analytical reason, not easily comprehend that there is also something like an exact concrete imagination." Heller adds that "this exact concrete imagination is the glory of Goethe's peotry, and he knew that it was the great instrument of truth."

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