Revealing the Intimacy of the World

rev·er·ie a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts; a daydream.

I recently came across 20th Century French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. His main body of work focuses on epistemological studies in science. To briefly summarize, he was in support of constructivist epistemology: Meaning that he believed scientific knowledge is constructed by the scientific community, attempting to measure and construct models of the natural world.

“It is better to live in a state of impermanence than in one of finality.” Gaston Bachelard

Here I will focus more on his writings on reverie, or daydreaming. In The Poetics of Reverie he talks about the importance of childlike states of mind when experiencing reverie. Bachelard claims that adults can return to these deep childhood daydreams during which we are briefly free and fully receptive. He describes poetic images as "revealing the intimacy of the world" in an unbiased and unhinged way, just as a child is fully open to experiencing the world (you can tell I am going to make a connection between reveries and Zen!)

Bachelard in his study, ca. 1960.

Bachelard in his study, ca. 1960.

Bachelard seems to urge us towards regaining the mentality of the child experiencing the world for the first time, by reading poems. This is problematic when re-remembering traumas of childhood, however to go beyond this is to recall the amazement of having once been new to the world. Bachelard writes that "the image of childhood is not completely ours: It has deeper roots than our simple memories." He maintains that it is much better to think of our childhood through poems and reveries, rather than through memories or facts. 

"Boredom is the greatest provincial happiness. I mean that deep, irredeemable boredom which, by its violence, breaks reverie loose within us." Louis Ulbach

In this way poetry's images help us move toward seeing the human experience with fresh, unbiased and curious eyes. It is when we move towards childhood that we can become fully awake to the world. This is where I connect Bachelard's writings to the philosophy of Zen, which talks about a state of fearlessness towards the world. This is to shed all presumed learning from the past and look at everything fresh again. If you look at how a toddler looks at a flower, you can see the Zen mind in action. Or when you observe a young child looking at their hands in action, endlessly opening and closing them in bewilderment of how they move, finger by finger. It is when we become impatient and start pushing for results, that we lose this state of reverie and won't allow ourselves to fully experience the world.