This memoiristic essay is a contribution to the Common Knowledge symposium titled “Fuzzy Studies: On the consequence of blur.” While probing his personal memories and making a case for devaluing our intellectual constructs, the author, an anthropologist, examines paintings by Paul Cézanne and Pieter Bruegel, poems by Wallace Stevens and W. H. Auden. The essay argues that each self-deluding “reality” we construct is only temporary, destined to fall back into the elusive, undifferentiated zone of overlap and ambiguity from which it has emerged. Therefore, the author urges, we should temper the intellectual “rage for order” with an openness to chaos and contingency, along with sustained and careful attention to creative works and religious practices in which the mind appears to grasp its limits. In this way, we may substitute what Stevens called “ghostlier demarcations” for our clear, exact, and self-deceptive certainties.

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