Let’s Try Something (Adventures in New Testament Greek: Nous) …

You could almost think the word synonymous
with mind, given our so far narrow
history, and the excessive esteem

in which we have been led to hold what is,
in this case, our rightly designated
nervous systems. Little wonder then

that some presume the mind itself both part
and parcel of the person, the very seat
of soul and, lately, crucible for a host

of chemical incentives—combinations
of which can pretty much answer for most
of our habits and for our affections.

When even the handy lexicon cannot
quite place the nous as anything beyond
one rustic ancestor of reason, you might

be satisfied to trouble the odd term
no further—and so would fail to find
your way to it, most fruitful faculty

untried. Dormant in its roaring cave,
the heart’s intellective aptitude grows dim,
unless you find a way to wake it. So,

let’s try something, even now. Even as
you tend these lines, attend for a moment
to your breath as you draw it in: regard

the breath’s cool descent, a stream from mouth
to throat to the furnace of the heart.
Observe that queer, cool confluence of breath

and blood, and do your thinking there.

— Scott Cairns from “Adventures in New Testament Greek: Nous” from Philokalia: New and Selected Poems.

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