In the 6th hour of the day, the narrator in Paul Valéry’s Alphabet is still on his balcony, connecting his soul to the beautiful, sunlit world that he observed in the 5th hour [see post]. “Ame, fais ton office!” Soul, do your duty! Do what you want.

As the fifth hour cast a shadow on our narrator, the sunlight has entered into his soul as a ray of light enters a diamond. When this light enters the diamond, perfection comes out of the prism. The unity of these forces of light and perfection produces a silence which precedes all thought.

Être contenu avec toutes choses dans un élément singulier, isolé de muette et souveraine attente, est divinIl n’est point de pensée de degré plus élevé que ceci (61).”

To be isolated in this singular moment, silent and sovereign, is divine. Can there be higher degree of thought than this?

What is the highest degree of thought?

As an educator in the university, my mind went directly to Blooms Taxonomy’s “higher order of thinking”, pushing our brains to move beyond remembering and recalling information into application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creation. This is the area where our brains truly and deeply learn information! The highest degree of thought is creation.

In addition and on a personal note [which is rare in my blog posts], this idea of the different levels of thought gave me pause.

I recently had a second episode of amnesia in which my Neurologist has diagnosed as Transient Global Amnesia. This is a very rare condition and not much is known about it. During this last episode which happened a week ago, I could not remember anything for more than five minutes. This lasted about four hours. I kept asking my husband the same questions over and over again. When the episode was over, I was back to myself but could not remember, and still cannot, anything during that four-hour period of time. I can remember events preceding and after, but not during.

As you can imagine, this is very unsettling and scary. I am not sure when or if it will happen again. Therefore, it might sound a little trite to say that this poem has brought me some comfort in the fact that the part of my brain that was affected is the lowest degree of thought—remembering! I am still able to perform the higher levels of application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creation.

Back to our poem.

Our narrator, after having the highest degree of thought, has stated that he does not know that which prepares itself (in the future?) but he is able to decipher and feel what is available (in the present?). He sees himself in the order of the Creation of the universe, un désir de ce qui fut avant toute chose, before anything or any being. He feels a power in the air that is indefinable, like the power before a storm. This power illuminates the deserts of drought in his soul with fountains and springs.

En secret une voix connue essaye de paroles inconnues (62).

In secret, a known voice tries unknown words. How cool is this.

The implicit figures that pre-exist in his structure and in his attentive substance take shape, and make themselves known.

Thank you, Valéry, for bringing this to mind: what is my highest degree of thought? I have created this post, that is a good thing for me!

Work Cited

Valéry, Paul. Alphabet. Paris: Librairie Générale Française. 1925