I am wary of those who are preternaturally self-assured, particularly when it comes to matters of politics, philosophy, and religion. I tend to assume that they have arrived at their level of certitude by leaving something out of account. The question then arises: Have they left something out of account inadvertently (through ignorance, sloth, and/or lack of curiosity) or intentionally (making them untrustworthy and/or dangerous)?
Perhaps this marks me as a cynic. But I believe that any truth that we are fortunate enough to encounter in this world arrives in momentary flashes, not in systems, creeds, or over-arching explanations, however well-intentioned. (And we all know where good intentions lead us, don't we?)
This may explain, at least in part, my attraction to poetry. Although I do not believe that the purpose of poetry is to "teach" us anything, I do believe that a good poem (emphasis on good) provides an inkling of truth about Life or the World. (But this does not mean that the purpose of poetry is to edify. Nor does it mean that the intimation of truth embodied in a poem can be explicated or explained.)
In Broken Images
He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.
He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.
Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.
Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.
When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.
He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.
He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.
Robert Graves, Poems 1929 (1929).
The approach to life suggested by Graves in the poem reminds me of his poem "Flying Crooked," which I have posted here previously.