Descartes' Despair

by Paul Hartal

How can we affirm our own existence?
Cogito ergo sum, Descartes said,
I think therefore I am.

But wait!
Who is doing the thinking?
The body?
Am I my body?

Well, Descartes explained,
we are talking about
two incompatible substances:
The un-extended and indivisible mind
in contrast with the extended and divisible matter,
Res cogitans versus rex extensa.

Yes, but am I my body?
How is the contact created
Between the mental
and the physical worlds?
Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate asked.

Well, somewhere at the base of the brain,
in the pineal gland, replied the philosopher.

Oh, I have a problem with that,
the princess remarked.
For, if the brain exists in space,
how can the non-spatial mind dwell in it?

And Descartes threw up his hands
in despair.

Paul Hartal, Postmodern Light; Montreal and San Diego: Orange Monad Editions, 2006, p. 47

Paul Hartal's picture

A man of many Odysseys, Paul Hartal is a Canadian poet, author and artist born in Szeged, Hungary. His critically acclaimed books include Postmodern Light (poetry, 2006), Love Poems (2004), The Kidnapping of the Painter Miró (novel, 1997, 2001), The Brush and the Compass (1988), Painted Melodies (1983) and A History of Architecture (1972) ., In 1975 he published in Montreal A Manifesto on Lyrical Conceptualism. Lyco Art is a new element on the periodic table of aesthetics, which intertwines the logic of passion with the passion of logic. In 1980 the Lyrical Conceptualist Society hosted the First International Poetry Exhibition in Montreal., In 1978 Hartal exhibited his paintings at the Musée du Luxembourg and the Raymond Duncan Gallery in France and his canvas Flowers for Cézanne won the Prix de Paris. He also has displayed his oeuvre in museums and galleries in New York, Montreal, Budapest, as well as many other places., He approaches poetry with the credo that the heart of poetry is the poetry of the heart. A recurring theme of his recent work explores the human tragedies of wars and genocides.

Last updated March 12, 2012