When things encounter each other, there is an exchange between them, a response or ripple that is affective or “emotional” in nature (as Whitehead argued) and that has to do with a “taking account of,” a meaning-making and responding to what is encountered. Between the social and the material, then, is the intermediary register of the mental-perceptual. The idea of a mental ecology is intended to suggest that we humans are embodied agents and interpreters of a world that is not only there to be perceived, but also perceptive and communicative in its nature. Perception or mind, understood as the sense- and world-making capacity intrinsic to all experience, is the interactive dimension through which a world comes into being for world-bearing beings…  If we follow the processual ontology suggested by Whitehead, Deleuze, Bergson, and others, and take the universe to be fundamentally active and communicative—experience all the way down—then it is precisely this mental ecology that is central to things, and it is through perceptual experience that subjects and objects, and thus a subject- world and an object-world, are possible at all.

(Adrian Ivakhiv, Ecologies of the Moving Image, 34-6, emphasis added)

The notion that Ivakhiv presents here, of a mental ecology – a notion he borrows from Felix Guattari, who wrote of a “virtual ecology” – is something I want to investigate and complicate, but most of all take seriously.  It’s eminently a notion in sympathy with the buddhist understanding of interdependence.  Of course, when Ivakhiv uses the phrase a “meaning-making,” he is alluding to the literal translation of the ancient Greek word poiesis, and thus indirectly alluding to poetry.  Whitehead preferred the word creativity, which he described as “the ultimate behind all forms, inexplicable by forms, and conditioned by its creatures” (PR 20) or as the “ultimate which is actual in virtue of its accidents” (7).  Ivakhiv calls this “processual ontology” a mental ecology because it challenges the usual divide between the inanimate and the animate.  Whitehead’s “principle of universal relativity” tells us that “every actual entity is present in every other actual entity” (50) and his “doctrine of prehensions” tells us that “all actual things are subjects, each prehending the universe from which it arises” (55). Consciousness, then, is not a special quality distinct from matter, but a byproduct of the fact that things “prehend” one another, or are mutually affected by one another.  This mutual apprehension, again, is unlimited, because for Whitehead the world is a nexus in motion, where “every actual entity is present in every other actual entity.”  Turning this around, one could say that process philosophy is simply a logical consequence of Whitehead’s insight into the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness.”  Once we accept that the things we conventionally call objects are actually relations, then what Whitehead called the “subject-predicate dogma” and the “sensationalist myth” with its “presupposition of the mind with its private ideas” (76) collapses.  That Whitehead refers to these orthodox models of mind and matter, subject and object, in terms of dogma and myth is important.  It reminds us that our science and philosophy have been political, and that an ethics is at work here.  We either believe that everything is interrelated with everything else, or we do not.  As Bruno Latour has recently pointed out, in his critique of the scientific assumptions that both blind us to the role of human action in the athropocene and that render us lame in the face of global warming, there is no such thing as total knowledge and we never actually base our decisions on total knowledge.  To seek total knowledge is just a means of postponing action, and inaction has real ethical consequences.  As Latour suggests, what we call acts of knowledge tend to be acts of belief or ethical positions.

From this perspective, what does it mean that Whitehead undoes the gap between subject and object, and deemphasizes the special status of consciousness?  In emphasizing experience and feeling, as a quality of all processes, he sets us squarely in a universe of natura naturans rather than natura naturata – naturing nature rather than natured nature. He sets us, more importantly, in an interrelational and ethical universe, the universe of mental ecology, where “consciousness presupposes experience and not experience consciousness.  It is a special element in the subjective forms of some feelings…” (53).  One objection we might raise to Ivakhiv’s term “mental ecology” is precisely that the mental is so abstract and has been used as a means of privileging certain forms of life over others.  This privileging, and its violence, goes deeper than at first glance.  For instance, in England in the early nineteenth century, the definition of a rational citizen (who really had mind) was rather narrow: it excluded non westerners, non whites, non males, non adults, and non humans.  Clearly, the sort of “processual ontology” that Ivakhiv describes undercuts those forms of privilege and undoes the very distinction between physical and mental on which they depend.  As he implies, what he means by mental ecology is that mind emerges from ecological processes themselves.  In this model, mind is neither a quality of subjects nor objects but of both in that both are interdependent with one another, and that one both are dependent on a universe of active interrelations.

It is not immediately clear whether Buddhist philosophy would agree with this.  Because of the ethical benefits of this sort of processual ontology, on so many levels (as an antidote to the beliefs that cause such global violence, but environmentally and socially, particularly the belief in an atomistic self and in a mechanistic universe, in which interrelationship is rather limited), I feel it’s important to check this philosophy against thousands of years of Buddhist psychology and epistemology.  I suspect that the major difference is that Buddhism tends to describe the mind as nonphysical, and also tends to be careful about any ontology that might reify they mind, be it monist, pan psychic, or panentheist, or pantheist.  For instance, Thupten Jinpa describes Tsongkhapa’s position:

…for Tsongkhapa, the core of the Madhyamaka theory of emptiness is to free the mind from all temptations of reification, be they in the form of atman, brahman, elementary dharmas, indivisible atoms, absolute consciousness, the autonomy of reason, and so on…. Since Tsongkhapa’s ontology contains no notion of an underlying unitary substratum, it cannot be defined by any criterion as monistic. Although Tsongkhapa undeniably accepts that emptiness is the sole ultimate (paramartha), there is no suggestion that it (emptiness) is some kind of underlying hidden absolute with unique ineffable metaphysical properties. For emptiness too is ‘relative’ in that its identity and existence are contingent upon the things on which it is defined. For Tsongkhapa, apart from the emptiness of individual things and persons, there is no ‘universal’, all-encompassing emptiness that can be characterized as some kind of great ‘mother-emptiness’. (Self, Reality, and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy, Thupten Jinpa, 174)

Nothing in Ivakhiv’s “mental ecology” necessarily tempts us to reify either mind or matter.  He points neither to indivisible atoms nor to intelligent atoms nor to absolute consciousness. Whitehead, notably, does have to invoke the concept of God in order to hold his philosophy of organism together.  He writes that:

Religion deals with the formation of the experiencing subject; whereas science deals with the objects, which are the data forming the primary phase of experience… The process is nothing else than the experiencing subject itself.  In this explanation it is presumed that an experiencing subject is one occasion of sensitive reaction to an actual world.  Science finds religious experiences among its precept; and religion finds scientific concepts among the conceptual experiences to be fused with particular sensitive reactions. (Process and Reality, 16)

Elsewhere, he writes:

“According to the philosophy of organism these three components [consciousness, thought, and sense-perception] are unessential elements in experience, either physical or mental.  Any instance of experience is dipolar, whether that instance be God or an actual occasion in the world.  The origination of God is from the mental pole, the origination of the actual occasion is from the physical pole; but in either case these elements, consciousness, thought, sense-perception, belong to the derivative ‘impure’ phases of the concrescence, if in any effective sense they enter at all” (36).

He also describes God as “the poet of the world” who “does not create” it, but “saves it” through a “tenderness that loses nothing that can be saved” or a “patience… tenderly saving the turmoil of the intermediate world by the completion of his own nature” (346).  Here, Whitehead’s vocabulary shifts from one of process and relation to one of love.  If his emphasis becomes more ethical and emotional, it also comes quite close to what post humanist thinkers like Rosi Braidotti and Jane Bennett might mean when they speak of a life-centered ethos or a political ecology of things – that is, an ethos that recognizes the value in things that lie outside of the human perspective.  This is Whitehead’s fourth alternative to the three main forms of theism:

“It does not emphasize the ruling Caesar, or the ruthless moralist, or the unmoved mover.  It dwells upon the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love; and it finds purpose in the present immediacy of a kingdom not of this world.  Love neither rules, nor is it unmoved; also it is a little oblivious to morals.  It does not look to the future; for it finds its own reward in the immediate present” (Process and Reality 343).

Whitehead’s sympathy with the nonhuman may become more clear to us if we consider his response to Wordsworth.  In an illuminating passage of Science and the Modern World, Whitehead links his critique of “misplaced concreteness” to Wordsworth’s famous sense of “interfusion” or sympathy with nature.  Actually, Whitehead reported that it was while reading Wordsworth that he had his insight into the problem of reification. Here, Whitehead invokes Wordsworth to take the logical insight into interdependence and interrelation into the domain of experience, or what in Buddhism is called Abidharma, phenomenological attention to first person mental experience.  What stands out in this passage is Whitehead’s care in pointing out that it is not the case that Wordsworth hands over the inanimate to science and concentrates on an element of the animate that science cannot analyze.  Rather, it is simply that Wordsworth is sensitive to the lack of separateness that is a basic feature of reality.  This lack of separateness, I would argue, carries two implications: on one hand it means there must always be some experience of non-separateness or wholeness; on the other hand it means there must always be some experience of an interrelationality that really does not consist of wholes.  In a more thoroughgoing sense, there’s no need to speak in holistic terms, or in terms of wholeness or unity.  Elsewhere, Whitehead prefers to speak in terms of a nexus of interrelations.  In other words, one does not have to assume that either Whitehead or Wordsworth essentialize nature or adopt a view of nature as ultimate, or as an abstract reality somehow deeper than and distinct from interdependence and impermanence.

Whitehead’s insights into Wordsworth from Science and the Modern World (1925):

He [Wordsworth] alleges against science its absorption in abstractions. His consistent theme is that the important facts of nature elude the scientific method. It is important therefore to ask, what Wordsworth found in nature that failed to receive expression in science. I ask this question in the interest of science itself; for one main position in these lectures is a protest against the idea that the abstractions of science are irreformable and unalterable. Now it is emphatically not the case that Wordsworth hands over inorganic matter to the mercy of science, and concentrates on the faith that in the living organism there is some element that science cannot analyse. Of course he recognizes, what no one doubts, that in some sense living things are different from lifeless things. But that is not his main point. It is the brooding presence of the hills which haunts him. His theme is nature in solido, that is to say, he dwells on that mysterious presence of surrounding things, which imposes itself on any separate element that we set up as an individual for its own sake. He always grasps the whole of nature as involved in the tonality of the particular instance. That is why he laughs with the daffodils, and finds in the primrose thoughts ‘too deep for tears.’

Partly my interest here, as I turn to Emily Dickinson, is this question Whitehead raises about what in nature poets find that fails to receive expression in science.   If the correct term for this quality is presence, what exactly are we experiencing when we experience presence?  Are we experiencing the luminous quality of our own minds?  Are we experiencing the thoroughgoing interrelationality of nature?  What Wordsworth has in mind seems to be some kind of ultimate mind, but the important point, I would argue – true, also, of Whitehead – is the emphasis on the word “felt.”  In other words, Wordsworth, it’s first of all the experience that matters, and the effort to put that feeling into words is secondary.  The main thing is to acknowledge that this feeling has happened. As he writes in famous lines of Tintern Abbey:

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man, 100
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

Here we might consider something HH the Dalai Lama writes in The Universe in a Single Atom:

“All meditatively valid subjective experiences must be verifiable both through repetition by the same practitioner and through other individuals being able to attain the same state by the same practice.  If they are thus verified, such states may be taken to be universal, at any rate for human beings.” (UinSA, 134)

Although Wordsworth’s lofty expression may give us the sense that he is the lone romantic poet standing against the “independent” or dissecting intellect of science, and that he has unique access to a special truth, the word “felt” may remind us that what’s at stake first of all is an attitude of the body and mind.  Throughout his 13 book Prelude, Wordsworth insists that his interest is in the everyday, the common, the ordinary.  He’s trying to tell us what an ordinary body feels when it attends to nonverbal or nondiscursive reality, which turns out to be full of relations.

When we are looking at the first hand report of poets like Wordsworth and Dickinson, the thing that seems important is that they are registering something.  Buddhist philosophers like the Dalai Lama, and like Thupten Jinpa, seem to feel that these first hand reports are valuable, and that we cannot dismiss them simply because they are not empirically verifiable.  As the Dalai Lama writes,

“It may well be that the question of whether consciousness can ultimately be reduced to physical processes, or whether our subjective experiences are non-material features of the world, will remain a matter of philosophical choice.” (UiaSA, 136)

I wonder though if there is a performative aspect to this choice.  Again, it seems useful to refer to Latour, who in a recent lecture in Vancouver has reminded us that “all our decisions are made without waiting for complete closure.”  Our knowledge of the world, too, is performative, in the sense that we choose a particular set of relations.  We act as if we lived in a world of interrelations, where our actions and statements have effects:

As Latour explains:

We are all aware that acting means taking risks and making bets. This does not mean that all those decisions were arbitrary since you acted on feelings, on many subtle cues, pointers, tastes and warnings that depended on your having rendered your- selves sensitive to a multitude of unconnected events and tiny perceptions. And this does not mean that you took your decisions without any knowledge either. Rather, it means that they had not been made after a full knowledge had been obtained and consensus reached. But it is fair to say that, once a decision took effect, a lot of new knowledge was obtained and many rectifying steps were then taken along the way.

Yet, the problem as Latour has, for decades, been defining it is that the basic move of modernity – the move that gives us the power to behave as if the world of natural objects is not affected by and does not respond to the world of social subjects – is precisely the move of dividing natural and social by thinking in terms of pure subject and pure objects rather than in terms of interrelations.  All sorts of entities are made to vanish in that move, he argues.  Latour asks us to “[refuse] to de-animate many of the connections between entangled agents.” He asks us to substitute the notion of the material with that of materiality. “Between matter and materiality, then, we have to choose.” Likewise he asks us to consider actants before actors, metaphor and metamorphosis before identity.

In this regard, he speaks of Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, as a useful description of the interrelational quality of actants, and a remedy for “the ‘scientific world view’ [that] has invent[ed] the idea of a ‘material world’ in which the agency of all the entities making up the world has been made to vanish”:

“Why does it seem so important to shift our attention away from the domains of nature and society toward the common source of agency, this “metamorphic zone” where we are able to detect actants before they become actors; where “metaphors” precede the two sets of connotations that will be connected; where “metamorphosis” is taken as a phenomenon that is antecedent to all the shapes that will be given to agents?

The first reason is that it will allow us to put aside the strange idea that those who speak of Earth as a “living organism” are leaning toward some backward type of animism. The criticism has been leveled against James Lovelock, as if he had wrongly added a spurious layer of animation to the real world of “inanimate matter”.  If my reading of his work is correct, Lovelock has done exactly the opposite: he has refused to de-animate many of the connections between entangled agents that make up the sublunar domain of Gaia. And also, but this is more disputable, he has refused to sum up all those agents in the technical master metaphor of a single cybernetic system…. we should abstain from de-animating the agencies that we encounter at each step.

If we take the mind for an actant, an agent, an interrelation, then what are the implications of the philosophical choice to not see the agency of the non-material?

As Latour implies, that which we regard as “natural” we tend to regard as object rather than actant.  Our statements about such things we take for constatives rather than performatives. However, what if the world is composed much more of agents than of objects?  Latour makes this problem clear through examples:

There is a traditional division in philosophy between statements about “natural” phenomena — it makes no difference to them that you know them or not — and “social” phenomena — to know them is to modify them (I put “natural” and “social” in scare quotes for a reason that will be clear in a minute).  John Searle has written a whole book about this division: a statement about the boiling point of water has no influence on water, while a statement by the right banking authority about the value of a dollar bill does define how much it is worth. One is called a “constative” statement, the other a “performative” one.

(B. LATOUR – WAR AND PEACE IN AN AGE OF ECOLOGICAL CONFLICTS http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/130-VANCOUVER-RJE-14pdf.pdf)

So with the mind maybe we are dealing with an actant that we put under wraps.  “To be a subject is not to act autonomously in front of an objective background, but to share agency with other subjects that have also lost their autonomy.”


What do her meditative experiences tell us?  Why does she write of pain, silence, loneliness, ecstasy, sound?

At least, when we dismiss first-person investigation, we seem to dismiss consciousness as an actant, and to do so performatively.  As Latour argues about global warming, it matters what we believe in this case.  It leads to ethical and social consequences.

The Dalai Lama and Thupten Jinpa both touch upon the limitation of science for studying consciousness, then:

Even when combined, neuroscience and behavioral psychology do not shed enough light on the subjective experience, as both approaches still place primary importance on the objective, third-person perspective.  Contemplative traditions on the whole have historically emphasized subjective, first-person investigation of the nature and functions of consciousness, by training the mind to focus in a disciplined way on its own internal states… the Tibetan term, gom, literally means ‘to familiarize’.  So the idea is a disciplined mental practice of cultivating familiarity with a given object, whether an external object or an internal experience. (The Universe in a Single Atom, 141)

The Dalai Lama explains how a person can come to know the mind directly:

Gradually, in the midst of the internal chatter, one will begin to glimpse what feels like a mere absence, a state of mind with no specific, determinable content… Once this happens, there is a real opportunity to understand experientially what is described in the Buddhist definition of consciousness as ‘luminous and knowing.’  In this way a meditator will gradually be able to ‘grasp’ the basic experience of consciousness and take that as an object of meditative investigation. (159)

As he explains,

…whatever our philosophical views about the nature of consciousness, whether it is ultimately material or not, through a rigorous first-person method we can learn to observe the phenomena, including their characteristics and causal dynamics. (159)

The point of direct meditation on the mind is precisely that the mind is an actant.  It has the capacity to transform:

My point here is not to suggest that we could use the scientific method to prove the validity of the theory of Buddha nature but simply to show some of the ways in which the Buddhist tradition has attempted to conceptualize the transformation of consciousness.  Buddhism has long had a theory of what in neuroscience is called the ‘plasticity of the brain’.  The Buddhist terms in which this concept is couched are radically different from those used by cognitive science, but what is significant is that both perceive consciousness as highly amenable to change.” (149-50)

This capacity for transformation is not limited to certain people: “It is important to stress here that, like the training of a physicist, the acquisition of mental skills is a matter of volition and focused effort; it is not a special mystical gift given to a few.” (156)

In an interview on the convergence of science and Buddhism, Thupten Jinpa explains:

In the end, I think one other area where there will be a big stumbling block is the nature of consciousness. Some philosophers believe that science will never be able to have a full explanation of consciousness and that’s why it’s called the “hard problem.” Unless science as we know it changes, I don’t think science will ever come up with a final description of what consciousness is. The whole paradigm of science is from the third-person perspective. So within that paradigm, how can the first-person character of consciousness ever be captured? You can get closer and closer, but how are you going to finally get to the position where you describe the character of the experience of subjectivity in a comprehensive manner? What kind of language are you going to use? Science has to capture this first-person character of consciousness in some kind of scientific construct, but the language of science is all third person oriented. All of the models of science are really based on looking from outside in. It is object-oriented language and object-oriented description. Also, consciousness has the capacity to be self-aware. The third-person approach can never describe that.

In some sense, scientists do understand that at this point there is no actual evidence for their materialist standpoint, but at the same time most of them would agree that it is a kind of regulative assumption. They have to make that assumption to make any progress. All the current neuroscientific work is based on the assumption that ultimately consciousness is the brain. So I think this is one area where at some point there’s got to be a parting of the ways.

On the other hand, if you have the conception of science I described before as having a limited scope, then it shouldn’t be a problem. You would see it as just one of those things that falls outside the domain of scientific inquiry. And then there’s no contradiction.

The point is that Dickinson scholarship tends to avoid a phenomenological approach.  We learn interesting facts about how she may have taken some of her voice from the black servants who lived in her house, or about how we’ve back constructed her as an exemplar of “lyric” poetry when in so many ways she’s profoundly anti-lyric.  A recent issue of the Emily Dickinson journal was dedicated to articles that explicitly discuss Dickinson and asian philosophy, often pointing to her zen-like emphasis on blandness and ordinariness, or on one-taste.  Margaret Freeman has discussed Dickinson in terms of embodied poetics or cognitive poetics, pointing out that Dickinson’s metaphors challenge the notion of mind as container or enclosure, and forcefully present a model of mind as radically open if not explosive.  But we still have trouble addressing Dickinson’s reports of subtle experience – and this seems tragic, because, as HH suggests, these experiences are not for the gifted few, but are qualities that we can all experience.  Indeed, if we live without these experiences, then we have limited ourselves to a very superficial experience of mind and reality.  That’s the point: that when Dickinson talks about nature, she is much more interested in the nature of reality, and of mind, than in the nature of things.  These things aren’t mutually exclusive: she’s a profoundly incisive observer of concrete detail, but there’s more to her work than that.  It’s from Dickinson herself that we get the message that a limited experience of mind, even for a day, is a bit like deadness.  It’s also very clear that there’s something constantly egging her on, a pain or dissatisfaction.  Keats put this well in The Fall of Hyperion: 

‘None can usurp this height,’…
‘But those to whom the miseries of the world
‘Are misery, and will not let them rest.

So I want to present a poem that brings all these elements together.  With Dickinson, there are countless gems, so one just has to point to whatever’s handy.  In this poem, as in others, she refers to a sound that is like a multitude or multiplicity.  It’s visitational.  It’s not actually music, but it’s like music.

This World is not conclusion

This World is not conclusion.

A Species stands beyond—

Invisible, as Music—

But positive, as Sound—

So, this visitational experience beyond our conclusions has some sort of positive force.  But we cannot come to it through knowledge.  We have to attend to it, not know it:

It beckons, and it baffles—

Philosophy, don’t know—

And through a Riddle, at the last—

Sagacity, must go—

There’s something about it that, as Buddhist philosophy puts it, is either slightly hidden or extremely hidden, and yet people continue to risk transgressing orthodoxies in order to understand it:

To guess it, puzzles scholars—

To gain it, Men have borne

Contempt of Generations

And Crucifixion, shown—

Then she tells us that faith is not enough here.  Faith plucks at evidence and asks for guidance.  We need instead some kind of direct perception:

Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—

Blushes, if any see—

Plucks at a twig of Evidence—

And asks a Vane, the way—

Religion tries to give us faith but these are just narcotics to numb the real discomfort we are in.  The thing that’s really niggling at us is, one could say, our sense of isolated existence, and our failure to realize interrelationship as an experiential reality:

Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—

Strong Hallelujahs roll—

Narcotics cannot still the Tooth

That nibbles at the soul –

                                                                                          F373 (1862)  501

Elsewhere, she describes this sense of interrelationship, which occurs in solitude:

Alone, I cannot be —

For Hosts — do visit me —

Recordless Company —

Who baffle Key —

They have no Robes, nor Names —

No Almanacs — nor Climes —

But general Homes

Like Gnomes —

Their Coming, may be known

By Couriers within —

Their going — is not —

For they’ve never gone —

F303 (1862)  298

I’m just going to rattle through a few more poems.  I’m not going to bother interpreting them for you much, as I think they’ll speak to you directly.  I’ll just divide them into categories.  The first is visitational sound (we’ve already seen two examples, here’s are two more):

Musicians wrestle everywhere – 

All day – among the crowded air

I hear the silver strife – 

And – waking – long before the morn – 

Such transport breaks upon the town

I think it that “New Life”!

It is not Bird – it has no nest – 

Nor “Band” – in brass and scarlet – drest – 

Nor Tamborin – nor Man – 

It is not Hymn from pulpit read – 

The “Morning Stars” the Treble led

On Time’s first Afternoon!

Some – say – it is “the Spheres” – at play!

Some say that bright Majority

Of vanished Dames – and Men!

Some – think it service in the place

Where we – with late – celestial face – 

Please God – shall ascertain! 

Better — than Music! For I — who heard it —
I was used — to the Birds — before —
This — was different — ‘Twas Translation —
Of all tunes I knew — and more —

‘Twasn’t contained — like other stanza —
No one could play it — the second time —
But the Composer — perfect Mozart —
Perish with him — that Keyless Rhyme!

So — Children — told how Brooks in Eden —
Bubbled a better — Melody —
Quaintly infer — Eve’s great surrender —
Urging the feet — that would — not — fly —

Children — matured — are wiser — mostly —
Eden — a legend — dimly told —
Eve — and the Anguish — Grandame’s story —
But — I was telling a tune — I heard —

Not such a strain — the Church — baptizes —
When the last Saint — goes up the Aisles —
Not such a stanza splits the silence —
When the Redemption strikes her Bells —

Let me not spill — its smallest cadence —
Humming — for promise — when alone —
Humming — until my faint Rehearsal —
Drop into tune — around the Throne —

                                                                               F229 (1861)  157

Here are two about ecstatic experience:

There is another Loneliness
That many die without—
Not want of friend occasions it
Or circumstances of Lot

But nature, sometimes, sometimes thought
And whoso it befall
Is richer than could be revealed
By mortal numeral—

Between the form of Life and Life
The difference is as big
As Liquor at the Lip between
And Liquor in the Jug
The latter — excellent to keep —
But for ecstatic need
The corkless is superior —
I know for I have tried (1123)

And here are two about psychological cessation:

I felt my life with both my hands

I felt my life with both my hands

To see if it was there—

I held my spirit to the Glass,

To prove it possibler—

I turned my Being round and round

And paused at every pound

To ask the Owner’s name—

For doubt, that I should know the sound—

I judged my features—jarred my hair—

I pushed my dimples by, and waited—

If they—twinkled back—

Conviction might, of me—

I told myself, “Take Courage, Friend—

That—was a former time—

But we might learn to like the Heaven,

As well as our Old Home!”

                                                            F357 (1862)  351

I tie my Hat — I crease my Shawl —
Life’s little duties do — precisely —
As the very least
Were infinite — to me —

I put new Blossoms in the Glass —
And throw the old — away —
I push a petal from my Gown
That anchored there — I weigh
The time ’twill be till six o’clock
So much I have to do —
And yet — existence — some way back —
Stopped — struck — my ticking — through —

We cannot put Ourself away
As a completed Man
Or Woman — When the errand’s done
We came to Flesh — upon —
There may be — Miles on Miles of Nought —
Of Action — sicker far —
To simulate — is stinging work —
To cover what we are
From Science — and from Surgery —
Too Telescopic eyes
To bear on us unshaded —
For their — sake — Not for Ours —

Therefore — we do life’s labor —
Though life’s Reward — be done —
With scrupulous exactness —
To hold our Senses — on —
F522 (1863)  J443