- A Poem by Diane Tehrani
Meditations on John Ashbery’s The System by Diane Tehrani
In meditating on John Ashbery’s The System, I thought of Omar Khayyam and his quatrain The Moving Finger writes, and having writ, / Moves on: nor all your piety nor wit / Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, / Nor all your tears wash out a single line of it. After looking at a few critiques of The System and reading about Hegelian philosophy as a model, I began meditating on what the poem might be tending toward. My thinking proceeded from the way Hegel proposed to overcome contradictions such as finite/infinite, particular/universal, and nature/freedom, by the latter transcending the former and becoming intelligible as progressively developing and self-perpetuating whole. In this, reality is becoming or process in which ‘being’ is not more than ‘non-being’ (though they are empty abstractions). The idea is to take contradictions and tensions such as subject and object knowledge, mind and nature, self and other, freedom and authority, knowledge and faith, and Enlightenment and Romanticism and interpret them as part of a comprehensive, evolving rational unity Hegel called “the absolute idea” or “absolute knowledge”. In this, “consciousness” leads to further development until a “rational” unity is reached and preserves contradictions as phases and sub-parts by lifting them up to a higher unity. It is mental and rational and in the later stages of development comes to full self-conscious whole.