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The Journey to Order

Some years ago, when I was young and impressionable, a knowledgeable academic said to me, “There are two interesting things in the world — integration and disintegration — and they are equally interesting.” My response was the nineteen-thirties equivalent of Wow! — I felt I had learned everything worth knowing, if I could just hold onto this formula.

More and more, I have come to realize how wrong it is. Integration and disintegration are not equally interesting. Pathology is not as interesting as health, the journey to chaos is not as interesting as the journey to order. The poet may — in fact must — plunge into disintegration, pathology, chaos, maintaining as best he can his own freeboard, his balance — but it is the return to the surface, the return to sanity, where the experience may be recorded, that confirms our interest. Ishmael survived the sinking of the Pequod.

—Paul Metcalf, “Where Do You Put the Horse?”
(Collected Works Vol 3, pp 49–50)