Virtue and Impulse

Tuesday 20 November 2007

"William Blake made a curious and interesting remark: 'Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules.' We usually think of virtue as something that stems from following rules rather than impulse, and we usually think of acting from impulse as acting wild or crazy. But if Jesus had followed the rules of conventional morality and virtue, he would have died old as a loyal citizen of the Roman Empire. Impulse, like improvisation, is not 'just anything'; it is not without structure but is the expression of organic, immanent, self-creating structure. Blake saw Jesus as the incarnation of God, acting not according to the fixed expectations of someone else's limited ideas but in accord with a deeper, bigger Self, beyond consciousness, the wholeness of the living universe, which expresses itself impulsively, spontaneously, through dreams, art, play, myth, spirituality.

"This difference between impulse and rules was explained most clearly by e.e. cummings:

when god decided to invent
everything he took one
breath bigger than a circustent
and everything began

when man determined to destroy
himself he picked the was
of shall and finding only why
smashed it into because
Stephen Nachmanovitch - Free Play: Improvisation in LIfe and Art

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