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The New Doubt

By Matthew Cooperman May 6, 2014  |  community, Faculty, Poetry, Uncategorized, Writing  |  no responses

Doubt too must be the work of God if God exists,

and if God does not,

God must be the work of Doubt

—Bob Hicok, “My Faith-Based Initiative”

The totality of existing states of affairs is the world. The totality of existing states of affairs also determines which states of affairs do not exist.

—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus

Doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, limbo, mambo, dance that involves uncertainty. My distrust or your lack of surety, an alleged fact, a dubious action, a questionable motive or a concealed decision. What brings things into question, or into belief, some notion of an “out there” that reaches towards an “in here.” What may involve delay, pause or look away. What is rejecting relevant action, and what is a self-willed ignorance. Out of concerns for others, mistakes or appropriateness, it’s likely. Some definitions of doubt are doubtful, some emphasize the state in which the mind remains suspended between two contradictory propositions. Ah, the man doubting, the woman doubting. Should we begin?

Doubt, through the ages, drives the boat, shivers the herd, worms its way into our private hearts. Poised above the flimsy net, it is the second-coming of our second-guessing. Your therapist attributes your doubts to your childhood (what went wrong?) Your broker ascertains your doubtful habits of earning (do you not know the value of money?). Your scientist starts with habitual doubt and experiments to test its limits (where is the particle when you were riding the wave?) Your philosopher uses doubt to strategize the here and now and yonder. Your parents or your lover wonder how this will end (will you get a job? will you pay your rent?) He or she or it or them is the afterlife of reason and the shadowy beginning of faith. Sit down with your doubt self and write.

Doubt. Pascal thinking, Thomas questioning, Buddha neithering or Miranda standing there silent. It’s Keats all negative capably. It is a mannequin winking for sincerity, or, by Jove, the just thrown baby and bathwater. Sun out, I want a doubt equal to the Horsehead Nebula, I want a polymorphous perversity. Why, give me your tired your poor, give them the benefit of the doubt. The burden of proof is a donkey with a load, everyone’s got a hay corner, why, beyond a reasonable doubt. The earth is spinning but I stand on solid ground. I’ve been told, I’ve been journaling, paying attention. These things I know by the cast of my shadow.

Doubt, by abbreviation, is the coming-up-short of our authorities. Sex, Love, Money, God, Death, Taxes, Writing. These “things” call into question, bring into focus, received ideas and  daily practices. Why, it’s as if we burn doubt like gasoline. Whole fleets of doubtful transport. In light of our charged political ethos, our swift ecological egress, let’s embrace our doubts. Develop a Doubt Practice Ò. Cross train dubiously, lunge unpredictably. If painting is dead and the poem has no writer, we might as well entertain our doubts. No expense spared, all the trimmings. No Doubt. Nude Out. Gwen Stefani. In the principled certainty of unlikely outcomes sit down in your chair with your favorite pen and paper and say something substantive about what seems to be missing. I have no doubt you will find your true subject.

Matthew Cooperman

Matthew.Cooperman@colostate.edu

Matthew Cooperman is the author of three books of poems, most recently Still: of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move (Counterpath, 2011), and three chapbooks. A collaboration, Still: Imago, w/Marius Lehene, is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press. A founding editor of Quarter After Eight, he currently co-edits the poetry for Colorado Review. More information can be found at www.matthewcooperman.com

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