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Gershon Hepner

Delight and Knowledge and Poisoned Fruit

If there is no delight, all knowledge fails,

and, cast in thought, perception pales

unless the studied rationale of learning

delights, like candles that keep burning

when there’s a brownout and the only spark

comes from a candle challenging the dark,

and flickers due to all the sparks it lacks,

and wanes, delight delit, turned into wax.

 

In Latin “Knowledge is the source of power”

is how Leviathan was introduced

by Thomas Hobbes, but by its fairest flower.

Yet it’s by its delight that I’m seduced,

afraid a technological mind juicer

might ruin with its artifice its root,

as did in Eden the snake-shaped seducer

who taught our parents to eat poisoned fruit.

 

Stephen Kinzer, writing about the Menil Collection in Houston (“Soul-Searching at a Private Pantheon of Art,” The New York Times, January 31, 2001), describes how the inspired choices of Dominique de Menil have helped to create a collection that rivals the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia.  The former director, Paul Winkler, who resigned because of the changes that are occurring after her death, said:  “Dominique always said culture is delight, not just knowledge.”

In “How Information Was Born,” WSJ, 5/5/23, Dominic Green, reviewing Knowing What We Know: The Transmission of Knowledge From Ancient Wisdom to Modern Magic by Simon Winchester, writes:

Knowledge is power, Francis Bacon wrote in 1597, using a quill and the Elizabethans’ distinctive “secretary hand.” Thomas Hobbes, who started out as Bacon’s secretary, agreed: Scientia potentia est, Hobbes wrote in the 1668 edition of “Leviathan.” Generations of spymasters, dictators and tax inspectors concurred, and so, as the rubble of the Humanities confirms, did the French theorist Michel Foucault. Yet knowledge is no longer power….

Today digital information is power. The quantity of information debases its value: The printed newspaper is dematerializing before our eyes. The smartphone offers more than a different physical experience from its predecessors, the tablet, scroll, manuscript and printed book. It carries the entire history of information. Writing, Socrates warns in Plato’s “Phaedrus,” “will implant forgetfulness.” If we “cease to exercise memory,” we will be “calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.” When we outsource the storage of information, we outsource our knowledge of the world and ourselves.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at gershonhepner@gmail.com.