His (very brief) framing of the current state of the U.S. social/political situation we find ourselves in today vs. other historically tenuous moments gave me perspective. His advice on how to deal with information overload and the fact that individuals' beliefs are not being swayed by evidence, and particularly, how to move forward in such and environment will be useful to me.
Below is an excerpt from the interview:
"Why is Poetry Important"? (question is paraphrased)
"Everyone’s worried that they lack mastery. It’s part of the information onslaught: There’s always another source, another article you need to read, always another cross-cutting commentary that you have to engage with before you either act or say anything. I don’t quite have this whole race thing figured out, so I don’t know if I should say anything about the subject. I’m worried about what other people are going to think.
There’s a real concern about mastery and knowing things. Poetry helps because it’s not a realm of mastery. It’s a realm of not-knowing.
Wisława Szymborska, when she accepted the Nobel Prize for Poetry, said, “Fascists know things. They’re constantly talking about how much they know.” To quote the President, “I’ve got a good brain. I know more than the Generals. I know.”
Part of the reason I find myself turning to poetry in my political theory classes is because it frees people from mastery. It’s not about being lazy or glib, but it’s also not about having complete control over the subject, or over yourself, before you step forward."
Is there a particular piece of advice you give to students, or some sort of truth that you go back to again and again, yourself?
"Three things come to mind.
One: You don’t have to figure things out entirely before you act toward your best understanding of what is just. You’ll find your way toward a clearer sense of justice through your actions. If you wait until you figure it all out, many opportunities to lead a just life and to help other people will go by the wayside. So walk your way there.
Two: Be kind and gentle to one another and to yourself.
Three: If you’re not using the power that you have to help support others who have been historically denied power and opportunity, then you’re not using your power justly."
Read the full interview here:
Act toward Your Best Understanding of What Is Just