Chapter 4: The Highest Flight
Communism was imposed, a collective vision was imposed. Now every poet had to serve communism, every painter had to serve communism, every singer had to sing songs in praise of communism. Now the government was the deciding factor about what is true literature and what is true art and who is a true poet. Stupid government officials were going to decide: those who have no idea of poetry. If they had any idea of poetry in the first place they would not be government officials at all.
Just think of a collector, a commissioner, a governor: do you think these people can have poetic ideas? They seem to be worlds apart. And the people who were reading Marx and Engels and Lenin, can they have any idea of poetry?
Marx is so unpoetic in his writings. It is so tedious to read him. I have gone through the torture, so I tell you from my experience. Who has read Das Kapital? It is so ugly, it really needs guts to go through it. Otherwise two, three pages are enough and one feels finished. Even communists don’t read it. I know. Many of my friends are communists and they have not read it. Just a tedium, a boredom: nothing of poetry in it, nothing of beauty in it.
Jesus has poetry, he speaks poetry. Buddha has poetry, he lives poetry. Marx has no poetry at all, just dry, dull logic. Even the logic is not very sharp. People who have been living on such rubbish: they are going to decide about Dostoevsky, about Tolstoy, about Turgenev? They will not be able to understand these people, they are bound to misunderstand.
In Russia, poetry died; that has been one of the greatest losses to humanity. In China it is dead, because poets are in the service of the state now. They are rewarded, they are respected, they have been given big posts in the universities, but on the condition that they are not to be poets of freedom. They have to be poets of slavery, they have to serve the state.
And a real poet cannot serve anybody, he serves only poetry. He writes, he sings, not for any other motive. Art for art’s sake. There is no motive and no goal in it. His singing is just like the birds singing in the early morning sun, flowers blooming, bees humming. Yes, exactly like that: utterly free, natural, spontaneous.
I am absolutely in support of the poetic way of life, because it brings you closer to religion. But don’t stop there.because the poet has only glimpses of the truth, only glimpses, faraway glimpses, as if a window suddenly opens in a strong wind and closes again. As if on a dark, dark night you are lost in a forest, and clouds are in the sky, dark clouds, and then there is thunder and lightning.
When the lightning is there, for a moment all is light, you can see everything: the trees, the path, the rocks, the mountains. But only for a moment, and then the lightning is gone and the darkness deepens, becomes darker than ever before. You are dazed, more in darkness. You may stumble upon a rock, because before the lightning you were taking every care. You were moving cautiously, but now a glimpse that you know you are on the right path, you may become less careful, less aware. You may stumble upon a rock, you may fall in a ditch, you may go astray. And the lightning naturally makes you see less. It is so sudden, it blinds you.