Friday, February 12, 2016

Perne in a Gyre

12th February 2016

Irish born WB Yeats is my favourite poet. I have gone through his complete collection of poems, one doggedly after the other. Just as in any artistic output, there is a substantial amount of dross in this collection, but then there are the jewels, and those are shining and unmatched. Yeats had theories about the nature of time and reality that, although largely poetic, will I think in the future be shown to have some accuracy to them. He thought that reality was a series of spirals that interact rather like ripples of sound. This image of the turning "gyre" comes up again and again in his poetry. His term "perne in a gyre" pops into my mind often, more as a paradigm of how to approach life - not as a path moving forward from point A to point B, but more of a dance and a circling. This is the sacred circle that humankind has so often used to imagine the holy.

At the atomic level, we can see this "perning in a gyre" in the most fundamental structures of our being, in our very DNA.  Recently, I took a DNA test, because, I suppose, of the human need to uncover the stuff of our being, what it all means, how I as an individual fit in to the great "gyre" of the universe.

The results of the test showed that I am much less European than I thought. A mere 73%. And even if you take that 73%, it divides up into British, Finnish and Basques ( I like this latter: another Celtic people with its own ancient language trying to slough  off the stranglehold of empire - it must be genetic!)  The Finnish element probably comes down from the Vikings.
Anyway, though I do descend through my name from the Lords of the Western Isles, I am not who I thought I was. But then, none of us really is. I only know one person who qualifies as Pictish, ancient and original to Scotland. We're all a conglomerate of helices, an interfering match of turning cones, just as Yeats pictured it. It's what makes us human, and what, if we are artists of one stripe or another, we choose to hold up a mirror to. The best of us, which is the poet, is simply drawing circles with a  finger in the sand.

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