The Measure

2000-10-08

Elisa and I spent our anniversary weekend up in one of our favorite places: Saratoga, Wyoming. It's a sleepy little town, but you certainly can't beat the combination of hiking by day and hot springs by night! We hiked again on the Encampment River Trail outside Encampment, Wyoming, just as we did on our trip up to the area in May. And just as I did on our last hike there, I wrote a poem while we were hiking along. I think the up-and-down of this trail evokes the rhythm of poetry for me. The funny thing is that the poem I wrote this time answers or completes the poem I wrote there in May, so they form something like bookends to the summer.

The May poem is In the Garden, an obvious homage to Epicurus. I struggled mightily with the final couplet of that poem, because what I wrote originally did not make sense grammatically even though it flowed so sweetly:

No greater cause exceeds the measure
than that of my own reasoned pleasure.

No matter how you parse this, it doesn't make sense, for the concept of "exceeding the measure" doesn't work (although you certainly get the idea). Thinking through this point of grammar and how it related to what the muse whispered in my ear forced me to think about what I really do consider to be the measure of value in ethics. I suppose I added that part about "the measure" as a hedge against charges of groundless hedonism, but over the summer it kept bothering me, like a pebble in my mental shoe. Come October I was quite ready to be done with the issue in poetic form. The poem that resulted along the Encampment River is The Measure. I'd been playing with the first couplet over the summer, but never got farther than that. I like the hourglass concept -- for me it evokes the credo that I use as my homepage. I suppose the poem is about the flow experience, where objectivity and subjectivity meld and are left behind as irrelevant artifacts of dualistic thinking. Anti-dualism is always a popular theme with me, it seems....


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal