Vitalism originally emanated from the belief that what differentiated the living from the dead was some spark of life, some force that could not be explained mechanistically nor with exclusive reference to physics or chemistry. During the eighteenth century considerations regarding the nature of electricity superseded debates about Newtonian ideas concerning a vibrating fluid like substance called ‘ether’ which may have mediated communication within the human body.
Aristotle had viewed nature and the universe in terms of purpose, his four causes, the moving, the material, the formal and the final cause provided our long held non-mechanistic view of the universe. Until Descartes the soul and the body were not separate; his view of the life and the death question centred on the idea that ‘body as mechanism’ breaks, contradicting the long held belief that bodily death occurs when a soul departs. Mind and body, man and nature, matter and movement, life and death, body and soul, all provided an evolved, developed or fragmented dualistic worldview into which feed vitalist speculations about some principle in nature being central to our animate existence.
The digital machine gives and the digital machine takes away. The development of solid state electronics and a migration from purely analogue electrical milieus to present binaries creates the most profound dualism in the form of the abstract ones and zeroes of contemporary digital technologies. As Bergson, Stigler and so many others would have us understand, as embodied thinkers, artists, and writers, we are treading an evolutionary path. In culturally creative instances that path may well be a circuitous route back to our own immediate understanding of ourselves and the universe around us.
The conjunction of digital technologies and the vitalist awareness of the contemporary creative artist constitute a new system of creative endeavour, a new paradigm from whence renewed speculations can emerge. Such speculations inculcate ideas of heretofore unrealised personal journeys which offer myriad departure points that promise exclusive, personally fulfilling, creative waypoints and destinations.
To be blessed to find a living human being that may truly personify a significant part of our collective evolutionary journey, where artist, awareness, technology, method and personal reflection conjoin within an evolved poetic practice that illuminates nascent conceptions of our current creative condition, is a most valuable gift from the universe. A gift which I believe needs to be shared to begin to be understood.
That human being is the remarkable Irish Digital Poet John Pat McNamara. Therefore this site called Digitalvitalism.com is in many senses a homage to that truly great and unique man and his quiet way of being in the world.
My humble attempts at elucidating some of the wisdom that he has imparted to me is utterly flawed and wholly incomplete and I take full responsibility for the confusions or distortions I may have inadvertently introduced here. John Pat is an extraordinary human being and his generosity of spirit, intuition, knowledge, humility and fundamental humanity have made this entire enterprise not just possible but a stimulating and reinvigorating creative pleasure. His existence has incalculably enriched my own. I hope that navigating this website and allowing even a modicum of his thought to pervade your own existence will equally enrich some part of your person, your purview or your life experience.
The Irish mystic and writer John Moriarty was fond of invoking Henry James assertion that we should not prematurely close our account with reality, and while I am cognisant of the multidimensional and objective interpretations of the very concept of reality itself, difficulty arises in using broad conceptual brushstrokes to attempt to define the reality of what is a delicate, nuanced and fine weave of John Pat McNamara’s personal insight and reflection about his life and work.
In seeking to present just some of the works of John Pat McNamara, his thoughts and feelings upon his life of creative poetic endeavour, necessarily and unavoidably unspecific liminal imperfections will stain the monosemous treasure he has presented us with. Therefore I strive to thread carefully as John Pat’s works, thoughts, and speculations regarding his own personal journey are publically presented for the very first time via this website. There is a contingent weight of responsibility upon this author to attempt to communicate faithfully and offer for public consumption what to date has been ungenerously characterised as an almost hermetic non-engagement with the broader outside world. John Pat himself warmly welcomes the development of Digitalvitalism.com and in his usual relaxed and kind way sees it as an inevitable generous set of connections to further positive possibility.
John Pat has lived simply in relative isolation on Achill Sound on the west coast of Ireland for very many years as the world in its many forms and incarnations has, on so very many occasions, unsuccessfully sought him out. A previous ever-present proviso of privacy and personal anonymity has here been willingly waivered for the first time as John Pat enters his seventy first year and allows that I should share some of his experience, insight and confidences regarding his views of what he terms “the spiritual being struggling with dualistic existence, self-excavation and the real gift of creative endeavour”.
This website is wholly dedicated to John Pat McNamara, his works and life, his way of being and his unfathomable generosity of spirit. Despite several years of research, leg work and engagement I do not wish to confuse or stain the central purpose of this website by adding my own identity to it here. Those whom I have interviewed, cajoled, persuaded and press ganged into making this five year aspiration a reality I unconditionally express my gratitude and admiration, we know who we are and that fact in itself may be sufficient as acknowledgment. John Pat himself said he did not want to invite the vanity of having his own website named after him. As may be read and hopefully understood in greater detail in other parts of this website, the word digitalvitalism itself was a term John Pat began to use in our discussions some years back to describe what might be called the phenomenal categorization of his then current working processes, yet as John Pat once explained: “It might just be another word to help me understand my way of knowing my world.”