This morning I woke dull-headed and didn’t feel like writing, because I had drank wine the night before.
Naturally I wondered about Edgar Allan Poe.
How was he so productive?
I mean, he was an addict and incredibly excessive, what religious people would call a sinner.
He was erratic in his behavior, could dive into the weird, the dangerous, the lecherous.
But Poe was not only a drunk, he was also one of the most influential creative writers in the world.
Blake writes, “Excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”
If you were to enter into Poe’s body of work, you can find the genius. You can see “beyond the veil.”
Poe gets glimpses that few artists ever do and Great artists always do.
He had moments of mystic clarity.
He created stories so astounding that more than a hundred years later we still enter into those nightmares. Many of his fantastic images have become part of our shared consciousness, have become archetypes.
Who can forget the first time they read “The Telltale Heart,” someone murdering an old man stuffing his body in the floorboards, and imagining he hears his heart beating louder and louder.
Oh, how our inner lives are stubborn to reflect our outer landscape!
This is Swedenborg. This is Schopenhauer. This is confirmed by so many systems.
What led Poe “beyond the veil” was writing his imagination.
No matter what he was doing in life, no matter how many people he was causing pain to, he took time to imagine. And Write.
He looked at the stars and he imagined. And then he wrote it down.
He thought about the cosmos.
For fun, he read books on religion (for reading is writing), science, and he played with the ideas he encountered, and they became part of the way he saw a reality.
But seeing beyond the veil is NOT limited to the mystic.
Physicists strive to see beyond the veil as well.
Here’s where physics and Poe come together.
Consider the universe:
There are stars out there so much stronger than our sun, and there are billions and billions of them shining into space.
So why is the nighttime sky dark on earth?
In my non-scientific way to explain it (please look it up so cosmologists can explain it more accurately) our solar system is tiny, the sun only eight light minutes away, and there are stars out there so much stronger than our sun. There are billions and billions of them shining into space, so we should be able to see that light from earth.
Why is the nighttime sky dark on earth?
It didn’t make sense to the cosmologists.
Why was night not intense light?
They debated this paradox for many years, but the one who figured it out was Poe, in a poem called “Eureka.”
He argued that light from those stars didn’t reach us yet, because they’re so far away. The light hasn’t traveled here yet; it’s still on its way.
The universe is young, he suggests.
And he was right.
The scientist and the poet strive to see.
Poe took time to observe and think.
He spent a lot of time staring into the sky. And in spite of what he did all night long, he wrote the next day.
Just to be clear: my point isn’t that you, writer, are exempt from codes of behavior, so get drunk, be excessive.
My point is: Imagine. Write. Cast your bread across the waters.
At least I managed to write something this morning.