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Summarize the main points of  "Philosophy" by Nissim Ezekiel.

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mini30 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 28, 2012 at 6:14 PM via web

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Summarize the main points of  "Philosophy" by Nissim Ezekiel.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:46 PM (Answer #1)

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This poem is about a meditative state wherein the cosmos is seen with a special focus and the common things of daily life become an argument for "What cannot be explained, do not explain" because they argue against their own significance.

The poetic persona speaks of his transit once he has reached a transcendent state where his will "is uncontrolled." Here, he finds expanded thought is accessible whereas in a normal waking state, this is less so: "the mills of God are never slow."

In this transcendence, he sees the cosmos as a primordial goo that preceded the "million stars" of the physical cosmos: "Dissolves to show it's quintessential slime." The speaker says that in this state he sees history as tears in the eye of Time, which puts historic events in a new perspective as (1) insignificant and as (2) tragic: "That happened to the sad eye of Time."

Yet, whispers of normal waking meaning still remain in this transcendent state. The myths of life make their way through the pain of life attempting to weave a final understanding through a light of revelation and meaning:

As darkest myths meander through the pain
Towards a final formula of light.

He says he rejects attempts at formulaic, revelatory explanations of life's pain, summarizing it as inexplicable:

I, too, reject this clarity of sight.
What cannot be explained, do not explain.

There is some ambiguity in the language of these two lines as he says "I, too, reject." The English syntax means he and another person. Yet, who is the other person? When we recall that the poet spoke Marathi though he wrote poems in the Indian variety of English, we can justifiably mentally rearrange the syntax to be "I reject, too, this clarity." Now the syntax means he rejects the "clarity of sight" along with something else previously rejected. But what? Possibly it is reality's realm of a "million stars" blotted out of view by the primordial "quintessential slime" or possibly the magnitude of "each historic passion" now reduced to the magnitude of a tear drop. The meaning of "I, too, reject" remains unclear.

The persona addresses why things that cannot be explained should not be explained by saying that human senses have varying understanding ("interpretation"): you feel differently from I, and I feel differently from you. He says that common things, because they are common and used everyday, become a justification for their substantial significance: they are not an abstraction, a nothing; they are something and therefore important. They themselves "become an argument" to prove their substance, "an argument against their nakedness," against their nothingness. Thus the argument against things' nothingness/nakedness dies "of cold" while trying to find the truth it asserts: a false argument dies trying to prove itself.

In other words, the poetic speaker asserts that you can never prove that the substantial realm of material substance is true and, and by extension, that the spiritual realm of transcendence is not true.

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