Monday, February 26, 2018

Nicolás Gómez Dávila...writing to fix one's thoughts

 Colombian philosopher, Nicolás Gómez Dávila ( 1913-1994) whose works consists almost entirely of aphorisms had this to say about  writing: 
" The pleasure of writing, when we lack all talent and ambition, is the pleasure of  knowing clearly our ideas.
Drafting our thinking is, perhaps, creating it; in any case, it is to acquire a full consciousness. The vague and confusing idea is a mere promise; a promise that is not fulfilled and that is soon forgotten if words do not detain and fix it.
It is true that almost all of our ideas seem to be diminished by being written and that, in the light of that changing, rich and fruitful context of thought, they lose the life that stirs them in the warm shadows of consciousness; but it is only when they are of verbal pulp that we can know them and like, reject, or welcome them according to their excellence."
 (*This  is translated from Spanish, which original version is included below. )

 I  know that experience, where the glow that appears warm and steady within  flickers in me as I attempt to drag my  thoughts word by word into daylight.  Is this all there was?  What was I thinking?   It is a pleasure, those glimpses I sometimes have, thoughts which seem in the moment most excellent while in a hot shower  or on my knees and my  hands muddied in the garden, or in those first waking moments  when the door to dreams is still open. It can be a bittersweet process, but clarity is worth struggling for.

Original  from Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Notas, (p. 106) (Villegas, 2003) (1a ed. 1954) 
"El placer de escribir, cuando carecemos de todo talento y de ambición, es el placer de conocer claramente nuestras ideas.
Redactar nuestro pensamiento es, quizá, crearlo; en todo caso, es adquirir de él una plena conciencia. La idea vaga y confusa es una mera promesa; promesa que no se cumple y que pronto se olvida si las palabras no la detie nen y la fijan.
Es cierto que casi todas nuestras ideas parecen disminuidas al ser escritas y que, al extraerlas de ese contexto cambiante, rico y fecundo del pensamiento, pierden la vida que las agita en las cálidas penumbras de la conciencia; pero es sólo cuando se revisten de pulpa verbal que las podernos conocer y, así, o rechazar, o acoger según su excelencia."

If you would like to read of Nicolás Gómez Dávila  there is a very organized page of English translations of his aphorisms here:<>



John said...

I love the post and have to agree with you and Micolas Davila that ideas that seem good when thought quite often pale when applied to the page. But that search for perfection in translating thought into word is what helps me through the day.

Thanks for the post...

GretchenJoanna said...

"The vague and confusing idea is a mere promise." Ah, promises, promises! My life is full of these kinds of promises, which I personally never considered to have much life in them, phantom as they are. But if they are planted in words and pruned into even a small fruitfulness - which might only be a tiny bite that nourishes me barely enough to keep working - that is a sign of life!

Davila puts this so well and truly. I must go read some more of his fruits. Thank you, Jeannette!!