by Kirby Congdon…….
This column centers its attention on the literary form of poetry. But there are other kinds of poetry that should not be overlooked.
An inalienable right we all agree on in our civilization is the constitutional protection for the pursuit of happiness. When we look at this idea with a little care, however, we notice that to deliberately pursue such a comfortable state the result is instability. One may contend that such a satisfaction can only be obtained as a byproduct of our activities. If we are doing anything creative the work itself, its practice or its achievement occupy us more deeply than finding out whether it makes us happy or not. If a musician, say, needs to be told to practice his instrument to get the results he wants he is in the wrong field. He will come away from it with disappointment. A feeling of having an obligation to play an instrument destroys any purpose. When a man devotes hours on voluntarily learning his craft, getting to understand the music and listening to the language that is in it, he is not seeking happiness; he is learning its craft, getting to understand the music and listening to the language he hears it speak.
This goes for any activity. There are drugs available that let one avoid effort and which provide the coma of happiness that leads nowhere except into the possibly pleasant sterilization of both interest and action. The affect is like that of an alcoholic—his existence is only a facade for a life that has lost its integrity. Our educational system emphasizes getting along and fitting in as obligatory behavior instead of encouraging the student by letting him find himself in a world that is already complex and overwhelming in its need for control by imposing indifferent uniformity. We rely too much on the process of universal competition for an individual to find himself instead of the poetry with which he can identify himself.
One situation illustrates these ideas. A mother I know was distracted by her teenage son’s lackluster stance in coping with his youth. She wanted him to “get a job and amount to something” instead of hanging around with a local group that only got together to play tunes in an informal and unprofitable group of self-taught weekend hobbyists in a music band made up of amateurs. She was embarrassed by his attitude about work when she herself had achieved recognition as a real estate agent. A friend suggested that an income for the boy was not the crucial problem. Instead, he advised, send him to a music school to finish his education. Almost immediately he was spending his energy voluntarily in learning how to get involved in the complexities of recording the work of up-and-coming talents in the world of new music. He had found the poetry in his life. Happiness, money, and public approval were secondary concerns in that other work of simply finding out who he was.