The Flying Trapeze

Friday, May 01, 2009

Truth and Myth in Creative Nonfiction

We’re here to discuss truth and myth.

Filling It Up in Spences Bridge, B.C. on Canada Day

Is that truth or is that myth? No. It is a photograph.

The intent behind it, though, ah, now maybe that’s either truth or myth.

How Many Dimensions Are There to the Canadian Army?

Well, maybe. Maybe, because I would like to share with you a book that renders a discussion of truth and myth obsolete.


General von Hammerstein and a Man in Riding Pants
Sharing a Thoughtful Moment at the Funeral of Paul von Hindenburg

It is a work by a poet, a nonfiction prose book arranged like a photographic album, which uses the structural principles of poetry, and relies on purely fictional elements and dramatic writing in order to increase its empirical reliability and to draw a variety of precise distinctions between the varying unreliabilities of his sources. And his sources are unreliable: many are written in fiction, or in fictional memoirs, or in memoirs, or in fictionalized memoirs, or by secret police officers reporting on interrogations, or on fictionalized reports by foreign spy agencies with their own unreliabilities, and so on, and so on, and so forth.

Truth and myth cannot be separated out of that mess, and the author, Hans Magnus von Enzensberger, does not try. Instead, he takes care of the one thing he can take care of: his own unreliability.
The book is called: Hammerstein, oder der Eigensinn. The English translation is usually given as The Silence of Hammerstein, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

Sure, Hammerstein was the head of the German Army when Hitler became Chancellor. Hammerstein had in his hands the means of deposing Hitler with a coup (He did not exercise it, as he did not believe his soldiers would follow through.) Sure, he must have known that his children were spying for the Russians, in his house, and in his offices (which were the same thing.) It is entirely possible that he left important files lying around, so they would find their way quickly to Moscow, but his motives on that remain forever indeterminate, too.

Indeterminacy is Enzensberger’s point. You won’t find an attempt to draw a conclusion here, or to tell a particular story, except, maybe, the story of bloody-minded blockheadedness and self-counsel itself. I suggest that in writing this book Enzensberger was not so much interested in Hammerstein’s silences, as in his self-reliance and obstinate refusal to reveal his motives — because they mirror Enzensberger’s own.

Hammerstein in Happier Times

Enzensberger in Conversation With General von Hammerstein

That in itself is not unusual. It is just one in a long series of contemporary German-language nonfiction books that explores particular emotions, in depth, that stand on the edges of language and comprehension.

As such, Hammerstein is as much a work of philosophy as it is a work of pure literary art, or of history. It does the work of extending language.

In this area of literary, or philosophical, exploration, Enzensberger’s interests lie in exploring negative states — states of failure or ones in which the motives of people can only be deduced from the missing pieces of a puzzle, rather than from the present ones.

True to that idea, the last chapter of the book is called:

“Why this isn’t a novel.”

Here’s a little bit of what he says there:

I wanted to separate from my subjective judgements (which appear here in the form of glosses), those things that I was able to reconstruct out of written and oral sources. To this end, I have made use of the honourable literary form of talking to the dead. Such posthumous conversations enable dialogue between those people alive today and those who came before them — a distancing effect that obviously must reckon with multiple failures of understanding, since the newcomers usually believe that they know better than those who lived in a state of permanent indeterminacy, and risked their necks by it. The insistence that this book is not a novel does not mean that my work on it makes scholarly claims. Even footnotes, indices, and ellipses are avoided here. Whoever wants to know more, may want to linger a moment over the bibliography.

He ends with this final note:

Without the help of historians and archivists I would never have gotten past my first step; still, it was never my intention to stumble around blindly in their territory. Everyone, even a writer, does what he or she can, to the best of his or her ability.

So, what he’s saying is this:

A creative nonfiction writer does what a literary writer can do and does not duplicate the efforts of others, with specialized knowledge of other kinds. They must refer to him.
Just Another Day in Afghanada

This is Terry Glavin, who has just won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in British Columbia.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a Creative Nonfictioneer!


Creative nonfiction.

I’m not going to poke a stick into that name, but still,

here’s one definition that’s making the rounds:

Fiction. Not poetry, not drama, not screen-writing, not the Koran, not advertising copy, not mortgage papers, not the Dead Sea Scrolls, not mortgage rate charts at the Royal Bank: just … fiction. And it makes use of techniques? It doesn’t embody them. It just exploits them? You use it for some purpose beyond its own purposes — exists out there in spacetime

like some Platonic form for a dental filling. Is creative nonfiction an amalgam, like a dental filling made out of silver and mercury? You know the routine. The mercury makes the silver soft. The silver makes sure the mercury doesn’t kill you. But it does.

What I mean is this: “Truth” and “myth” suggest that in the writing of creative nonfiction we are caught between poles of two kinds of witness to the world: “truth” and “myth”. One (truth) is presumed to be ‘correct’, and the other, ‘myth’, is presumed to be error, or, at least, a stepping stone on the way to ‘truth’. Truth is about facts. Myth is about beliefs. Truth is about science. Myth is about poetry. Truth is about the world, outside of us. Myth is about our feelings, inside of us. Truth is about men. Myth is about women. Men carry six-guns. Women serve drinks, and themselves.

This is bunk.


It would be more fruitful to suggest that we’re talking about writing. We’re talking about real issues of how to order words and to create thoughts in series and to relate them to real experience. We’re talking about point of view. Omniscient, limited omniscient, first person, first person limited, you know the schtick.

Each one of those requires a different set of linkages between moments. It is these linkages that make a story and that creates most of our problems while writing. And when we talk about point of view, or when we talk about ‘truth’ or ‘myth’, we are talking about people and how to represent them.

Yeah. It’s about people.

The laying of the concepts of ‘truth’ and ‘myth’ on top of our interpersonal experience is an idea meant to lead thought into a certain direction. And it does. It’s very successful. Unfortunately, it leads us into a place with frock coats,

(I have a photograph of my grandfather, Paul Leipe, with a helmet like this ... except it was a stage prop for one of those oh-so-Silesian photo studios, that was really a canvas backdrop set up in the middle of the street, but made to look like a bourgeois living room.)

Prussian army officers with spikes on their heads, and everyone else pretty much living in peasant cottages.
This is Marie Antoinette’s cottage.

It leads to the situation of the German writer and statesman, Wolfgang von Goethe,

The Poet Discovers Italy as Young Man

writing to his sister, Cornelia,

The Woman Goethe Would Later Describe as the Ugliest of All Creatures, a Half-Formed Soul

who was even better educated than he was, that she had to stop writing well (in her journals and letters), because she was writing better than he was and if it ever got out, the news would ruin his career. He had, you see, just joined the Freemasons. They weren’t too big on woman’s rights, but they did claim that they had initiated the French Revolution.
Marie Antoinette Going to the Guillotine

A young society woman at that time (in the late 18th century) was meant to embody charm. A young society man was meant to embody ideas and action. Goethe considered himself a spirit, a genius, not a person per se.

He was like something an alchemist would call up to do his bidding – just without the alchemist, that’s all.

Now, I’m going to be really clear here so there’s no mistake: We don’t live in that society.

I mean, we don't live in this one:

Marie Antoinette Doll (You can buy this baby online.)

Here's what the Website says:

Marie comes ready to survive the wilds of palace life, armed with cleavage and ejector head action. Her court dress and wig, when removed, reveal her shepherdess attire, perfect for her off time at the “queen’s hamlet” where Marie enjoyed weekend re-enactments of simple, country peasant life in order to de-stress from evading the anger of real country peasants.



We’re Canadians. We live in Nature.

(Canada Day 2007)

Like European peasants once did. We’re famous for it. As Canadians, we have a special relationship to it. We understand it. We’re afraid of it. We huddle in garrisons,

The Quintessential Canadian City Mark 1
(For Mark 2, please go here.)

while the wind, the terrible female wind, blows in from the Arctic, ready to devour us

Windigo Devours ... Paul Gross?

and to turn us into Indians. We’re in considerable danger of going bushed. Well, so says Margaret Atwood, in her book “Strange Things: Images of the North in Canadian Literature.”
Literature. Take a deep breath. How many of us live in that country?




Yeah, none of us.

In his book The Wheatgrass Mechanism,
Don Gayton talks about how Canadians approach landscape in a literary way — or, at least, a textual way. Some explorer, maybe Simon Fraser,

Deep in the Grottp Simon Fraser Maps Out the Transcanada Highway

happened by in the 18th or the 19th century, sat down for fifteen minutes, wrote a couple notes in his diary, then packed up the pemmican and stumbled off to the next buffalo herd or the next mountain gorge. Forever after, in a culture that derives its authority from texts, we have continued to reference those first diary entries.

Really, in our books, we don’t know the landscape at all.

Physically and personally we do know it, though. We know how to walk on it. We can breathe in it. We can love it. But it’s not in our books.

As Don Gayton points out, all of those early texts can be rewritten.

That’s not Geronimo behind that rock, or, if it is, he’s Thomas King. He’s acting.

This is Geronimo.


Instead of asking what is ‘truth’ and what is ‘myth’, let’s ask a different question, one that they both circle around, like a bunch of Hollywood Indians around a covered wagon: what is Nature?

To answer that, let me use a piece of it that I know intimately. I’m referring to the Cariboo-Chilcotin Grasslands. Chris Harris and Ordell Steen and I wrote about these in the photographic book Spirit in the Grass.

The Cariboo-Chilcotin Grasslands stretch along the benchlands of the mid-Fraser and Western-Chilcotin Rivers and the surrounding plateaus of central British Columbia. They Grasslands have not changed in 4,000 years and are the most pristine grassland left in the temperate zone of the earth.

In fact, they are one of only two extensive, pristine temperate grasslands left on our planet. 200 years ago, they were a tiny, lost corner of a biome that covered 14% of the Temperate zone, and 12% of the planet’s land mass overall. There are two pieces of that biome left, at its farthest edges, where it filters out among the trees. One is in Mongolia. The other is Canadian, and ours. This is home.

Well, yeah, but it’s also a story, a myth, a bit of history, and a truth. The only commonality in all that is that we who live in Canada today are its caretakers. We might have choice in this world, lots of it. We might be able to choose between Argentinian Malbec and Canadian Maréchal Foch, God might have given us free will in spades, but we have no choice about the grasslands. Without our attention, this particular truth and myth, the Cariboo-Chilcotin Grasslands, the creation of and cradle of the Secwepemc people, will vanish, it could vanish within five years, and it will be replaced by new truths and new myths. Period. This truth can’t be avoided. It’s not a myth.

For 4,000 years, people have lived on the Cariboo-Chilcotin Grasslands. Over the previous 5,000 years they had developed site-specific ways of organizing mythical and factual material, including seasonal migrations, periodic burning, puberty rituals, stories,
Arrow Leafted Balsam Root
A Primary Foodstuff of the Secwepemc People

Plant gathering, and so on. That makes 8,000 years of experience.

Around 3,000 years ago, in Greece, a culture developed with new ways of approaching nature and organizing mythical and factual material. These included comedy and tragedy (ways of dealing with the sins of one’s ancestors), satire

A Nineteenth Century Satyr

(Ok, not a new way, but since it was quite content with those sins, it survived very well, thank you very much), history, philosophy, mathematics,

cross-dressing, and so on.

The Greek philosopher Plato
went so far as to join the Eleusinian mysteries, a 1500-year-old matriarchal mystery cult, under pain of death not to reveal its secrets, then went on to mock it with his parable of the cave, and, in effect, revealed and belittled its secrets as far as he could without paying the ultimate price.

Here’s a summary from the new university: Wikipedia.

Plato imagines a group of people who have lived chained in a cave

all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of the cave entrance, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

On the face of it, Plato’s talking about ‘logic’.

Logic (With Thanks to Leonard Cohen)
Saanich, British Columbia

Just below the surface, however, he’s talking about men wanting out from the constrictions of a matriarchal culture based upon feminine power. If we’re caught by Plato’s barb of truth, we’re likely to swallow the larger alternate myth, that it’s priestesses and their myths that are keeping those men captive in a world of illusion.

Good grief.


Today, we have new ways of organizing mythical and factual material.

Many of these new myths in our society are ‘green.’ They are, quite specifically, and nobly, designed to protect places like the Cariboo-Chilcotin grasslands. They include the 100 Mile Diet

(Don’t eat anything that did not spring from the earth within 100 miles of your place of residence), recycling (blue boxes), water conservation (turn the tap off while brushing), carbon capture (how to keep drilling for oil without losing sleep over it), and so forth. They are all good things, but what they protect are not the grasslands. They protect cities and the citizens of cities, but for the grasslands they are the wrong truth, and the wrong myth. For the grasslands, the issue is not the preservation of forests; it is the burning of forests so they do not continue to encroach on the upper porcupine grass and needle-and-thread grass.
Becher's Prairie

The issue is not the elimination of distant production of foodstuffs, but its preservation, and the preservation of large, working ranches, of up to a million acres apiece,

The Gang Ranch

which are the only reason we have any grasslands left at all. Ironically, one of those huge ranches, the historic Gang Ranch, is owned by a Saudi sheik, who is one of the financial backers of Osama Bin Laden

Ah, that's better.

His name is Ibrahim Mohammed Afandi. Does this mean that the 100 Mile Diet is a plan to bankrupt Osama Bin Laden? No, it means that Ibrahim Mohammed Afandi can’t go to Big Bar, cross the Fraser River Ferry,
Big Bar Ferry

drive up onto the plateau, and walk on the grass.
Blue Bunch Wheatgrass

We can.


What are we doing with our freedom? Telling stories, certainly, but are we telling the truth, the truth of a reasonable man who can stand in a court of law and swear that all that he writes of is empirically true, and excised of all that relativizes that truth, or decorates it, and which cannot be proven?

Terry Glavin, for one, is pretty passionate about this point. He believes that this is the way that we should fight Osama Bin Laden, because Osama

Ah, there we go

relies on the mixing of truth and falsehood that we call myth, and uses it to convince his followers with illusory arguments. Good point. Let’s fight one method of corralling the truth with another one.

Meanwhile the bluebunch wheatgrass blows in the wind and the California Bighorn Sheep graze on the vertical faces of the silt cliffs, while below them the glaciers flow down to the sea, and to the south the weeds and suburbs are coming.
The Chilcotin River

It’s not the whole story.


John Valliant, the writer of the acclaimed work of Creative Nonfiction, The Golden Spruce,
The Golden Spruce in Better Days

has claimed that his method of working as writer of creative nonfiction is to travel to remote areas, where he can find a story to which he can ‘apply’ his vision.

What does he mean? Well, here’s part of the story he wrote in The Golden Spruce, which, by the way, won the Governor General’s Award for Creative Nonfiction (I do not quote):

a genetically unique golden spruce tree, linked to a Haida myth, is cut down on Haida Gwai. At the same time, an albino raven dies by electrocuting itself on a transformer out front of the Golden Spruce Motel in Port Clements, on Haida Gwai.

Here’s what Valliant says about that (I quote):

The Raven is the most powerful creature in the Haida pantheon; it was Raven who ushered the first humans into the world.

Bill Reid's Raven Works His Magic

Why two unique and luminescent creatures would occur simultaneously against fantastic odds, only to die in such bizarre ways on the same remote island within a few miles and months of each other is anybody’s guess. Science and the mathematics of chance fall short here, so myth, faith, or simple wonder must fill the void.

Well, yeah.

I don’t know what Valliant is going on about. When Raven created humans, he was really taking two clams that he found in the intertidal zone, one a Geoduct (Gooeyduck) with a long tongue like a flaccid penis,

and one with big lips, like a vagina,

and he stuck them together, and flew off laughing as they rocked back and forth on the sand trying to separate themselves. When he opened the big-lipped clam some time later, four little people came out, like little G.I. Joes out of a hummer.

In other words, if Valliant had not believed in the primacy of science and mathematics, he would have written a different story.
Believe it or not, this guy is a sushi chef in Vancouver, out procuring supplies.

Writing Creative Nonfiction is about point of view.


Now, to return to the grasslands.
Storm on the Grasslands near Riske Creek

Like the Haida Gwaii that caught Valliant’s attention, this landscape is given to us from two sources. In the case of the grasslands, the first is from the ecologists who study its creatures: range biologists, forest ecologists, doctoral students, and so on. The second is from the stories of the aboriginal people who evolved with it and lived in symbiosis with it for thousands of years.

Here is one of the stories from the ecologists.

Since the climate of the upper grasslands is amenable to both trees and grass, it is highly susceptible to encroachment.
Trees Rehearsing for Macbeth on the Upper Grasslands

In the past, fire swept away young trees, and thus maintained the grasslands and the adjacent savannah-like open forests. With the introduction of intensive grazing by domestic cattle in the mid- to late-1800s, the fine fuels that allowed these fires to spread largely disappeared. Soon after, aboriginal peoples were no longer allowed to burn, and finally, in the 1950’s, the province of British Columbia began actively suppressing wildfires. As a consequence, since the late 1800s, successive waves of trees have encroached on the grasslands and filled in the forests … in some areas more than thirty percent of the once treeless upper grassland has disappeared in the last three decades alone.

Here is one of the stories from the Secwepemc of the Nicola Valley.
Coyote was travelling, and came to a country where many tiger lily roots were growing. He was hungry, but he couldn’t find any game anywhere. He couldn’t see any lodges, or any people, so he cut a stick, so he could have a root-digger. "I will dig some roots and eat them," he said. Before long, he found a large tiger lily root, so he dug it out, pulled and pulled until it came up. As soon as he did, wind rushed up through the hole. He could see people walking, way down below. He jammed the plant back again, real quick. Then he dug another one out, another one of those tiger lilies. The same thing happened. Wind came up through the hole, so he jammed that plant back down again, real quick, and he thought, hey! and ohhh, I must be in the sky country. These roots, they are the stars!


One landscape. Two stories. Truth and myth. How on earth did they become so separated?

Not hard, really.


Now, I’m going to give you a warning. We’re going to Germany. We’re leaving the grasslands behind us. We’re going there because one year ago, in Baden Baden, I walked in the Garden of Eden. I’m not talking about a myth here. I’m talking about a truth. It is what it is.

The Garden of Eden

The Grotto in the Garden of Eden.
(British Columbia is just such a fountain)

The Garden of Eden is dead. It is very old. It is very non-human. And it is frozen in time. Time has advanced past it, and yet it remains. It’s there. Millions of people walk through it every year.

Weirs in the Garden of Eden, avec Luxury Hotels

My cousin, a historian and journalist, walked through it with me. I asked him what he saw. “Nature,” he said. “Green space.”

I saw it because my mind was dislocated after visiting a gallery on the edge of the English Garden. The gallery, the Frieda-Burda, was showing paintings by the German artist Gerhard Richter.
Richter’s art deconstructs images. More precisely, it deconstructs his responses to ‘images’, whatever they be: snapshots, war photos, newspaper photos, high artistic abstractions, family albums. He has built a vocabulary of responses to this rather etherial response.

This, too.

It’s a pretty commonplace approach in the visual art world, and in German literature as a whole.

Stefan Schütz’s
Stefan Schütz

Peyote, for instance, is a radio play set in Banff. It tells the story of a German writer who confronts an old, drunken Indian, and is tricked and educated by him. The Indian represents Peyote, the drug. Along the way, Schütz deconstructs everything: himself, his response to the story, the myth of the Indian, peyote,
Old Man Peyote, all wrinkled up in his scrotum

time, space, whiteness, drug trips, everything.

Grumpy Old Men

The thing is, both Richter and Schütz have a common source, namely the work of the German poet Wolfgang von Goethe, who was operating as a scientist. He studied light, in the time of Newton. He said, in fact:

Whatever I’ve achieved as a poet is nothing to me. There were excellent poets before me, I’ve lived my life among other excellent ones, and there will be more after I’m gone, but it gives me pride that in my century...

Goethe Said That

We call him a poet, in fact, the greatest poet of the German language, the Shakespeare of Germany, yet he wanted to be remembered as a scientist. That should give us pause.

Science and poetry: two things as diametrically opposed in contemporary culture as myth and truth.


Goethe was fundamentally opposed to Newton’s physics of light.

Newton at Work Before the Invention of Colour

He believed that Newtonian physics removed human observation from science and reduced human experience to a series of principles of so-called truths — wavelengths, reflection, refraction,

gravity, and so forth. Goethe believed that colour was created by the mind and its moods, in response to darkness and light.

Light By Goethe
(Or: Science Philip Pullman Style)

He worked out a detailed, intricate explanation of light, based upon precise, repeatable and verifiable observations conducted over a span of decades.

Goethe's Spectrum

That sounds a lot like science to me, yet physicists have long ago dismissed his conclusions and his methods.

Not just the scientists. In Goethe’s city of Weimar, his house is one of the pilgrimage shrines of German history and tourism. Tour guides line up their clients on the sidewalk outside, and it’s a very narrow sidewalk, and they really do have to get into line to fit, and because they’re German they do. Every fifteen minutes, a group of thirty is allowed in and a different group of thirty steps back out into the street, and this is the law, and it is how the German government preserves the original wooden floors of this all-important shrine. The first story of the house is devoted to an explication, with posters, charts, recordings, visual apparati, buttons, dials, and so forth, of Goethe’s theories of light. It is completely incomprehensible, and despite the great effort that has gone into displaying it, it remains almost completely unvisited. People poke their heads in the door, then walk on,

Whatever people are looking for, it’s not that truth.


There are also a number of unvisited museums in Weimar, including the Bauhaus Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Bauhaus Museum stands at the centre of twentieth century art and design. Everything we have, from our houses and apartments to our ballpoint pens and toasters, comes from it, yet when I was there the only other visitor was a young Japanese architecture student, illegally taking pictures of architectural models on the second floor. She jumped when I entered the room. I smiled to display my good will. We were co-conspirators.

Like the neighbouring Museum of Third Reich Architecture, The Museum of Modern Art faces Weimar’s state government buildings, which present a clean façade, with flags and shrubs and manicured lawns, but which are backed by a long gallery of graffitti that documents nightly battles between neo-Nazis and neo-Communists.

Weimar Neo-Nazi Graffiti

Nobody visits the Museum of Modern Art, or the Museum of Third Reich Architecture, either,

Some Museum of Architecture, Somewhere
(Well, OK, 150 Mile House, British Columbia)

yet in the Museum of Modern Art, at least, something remarkable is going on.

The artists are presenting sophisticated work, built solidly upon the foundation not of 18th or 19th or 20th century artistic practice, but, very specifically, upon a tradition that can be traced back directly to Goethe’s scientific treatises on light. In other words, like Goethe, they are scientists, and if the scientists have turned their back on Goethe’s hint that they are not considering the entire story, the artists are continuing his experiments and explorations. Maybe Goethe had it right — this is his big contribution: it is possible to have a science that honours individual human experience.

Something like, oh, I dunno, creative nonfiction.


The Land of the Creative Nonfictioneers is a country, in which empirical, scientific aims are conducted by alternative means, and which the perceptual responses that have come to be called aesthetic ones are also conducted by alternative means. In short, science is conducted through art, and art is conducted through science, and this might seem very remarkable and new, except for one thing: before Newton, this was the only science there was.

Take, for example, John Dee.

He was the court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth 1. Shakespeare represented him as both King Lear and Prospero. He invented the navigational instruments of the great age of exploration, drew the first maps of the Canadian North, advised Elizabeth on the conduct of the battle against the Spanish Armada, and talked with angels. In fact, legend has it that he conjured up the storm that surrounded England and destroyed the Spanish fleet, just like Prospero himself. Dee was an alchemist, and a magician. John Dee’s magic was based on the principle of inducing the spirit of the world to fill a body, any body, real or imagined, so that that body could use the spirit’s power to speak and thus to mediate between the pure God of the sun and the impure body on the earth.

That’s art.

The magic to enable this conversation was as elaborate as a triple-blind scientific experiment conducted either by Goethe or by Newton.

The World According to John Dee

Like that of any good scientist, the goal of Dee’s alchemy was to eliminate all extraneous variables and to break down the complexity of the world into one simple question and its yes/no answer. To bring it about, a magician such as Dee first set aside a sanctuary, decorated with paintings, carvings, and a carefully chosen array of plants, perfumes, and colours corresponding to the particular spirit being called. The trick was to open the floodgates so that the spirit, which would be present in every part of the world, would flow purely into the container, in a form uncontaminated by any other spirit occupying the same space. In the container, its concentrated power, now given living shape, could be used, could be directed, would have the power of art, except it would be art made out of the world.

Through a system of prisms, a laser concentrates light in the same way.

Dee went on to try to recreate the magical language with which God spoke the world in the Garden of Eden, so that he could speak it again, compel the spirits once again, and heal a broken world falling into ruin.
The Universe According to John Dee

Isn’t that what we’re doing here?

Both Newton and Goethe spring from this tradition.

Goethe as R2D2

So do we.

Here in the 21st Century, in a time in which long-discredited forms of literature are re-entering the mainstream and the academy is no longer the arbiter of taste, a time in which visual artists are looking to process, rather than product, as art, creative nonfiction is well-positioned to be a vital literature of the future. Creative nonfiction holds the potential of reuniting the traditions that were split in the Enlightenment, and of removing literature from the field of aesthetics and contemplation to the field of action, without losing its aesthetic and contemplative strength.

Creative Nonfiction Watching Us from the Hedley Mascot Mine

Thanks, everyone, for playing along.
Next: Kapuscinski, Lindqvist, Gunnars, and Kishkan