And I quote: E.E. Cummings and Baudelaire

pencil self-portrait, E.E. Cummings

E.E. Cummings self-portrait, c. 1920


I came across these two related quotes on Brain Pickings, where Maria Popova highlights ideas from lots of interesting thinkers.

From E.E. Cummings:*

“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.”

And from Baudelaire:

“Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.”


Portrait of Baudelaire in 1844 by Emile Deroy


I love learning new things, so the notion of having to unlearn in order to know myself challenges me. I can imagine that certain types of learning might get in the way of self-knowledge, or that prioritizing external sources of information over one’s instincts or inclinations might cause one to hesitate about putting forth one’s own ideas.

How about the quote from Baudelaire? What is it about childhood that evokes genius? Curiosity, of course, and perhaps a mind uncluttered by Should and Knowledge and History and The Way Things Are Done.

Either sentiment might be used as an excuse, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable warning against the slow stiffening that can come from yielding to convention.

Lots to think about.
*I’m used to seeing the lowercase e e cummings, but I learn that the poet most often signed his name using upper and lowercase letters, and I understand that when writing about him, standard capitalization rules are preferred.


[Images: Wikipedia]

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