Sunday, February 8, 2015
Just to give you some reference for Stephen, he is a truly gifted portrait artist, a delightful raconteur, and a fellow blogger here on blogspot, with his art and culture blog, Gods and Foolish Grandeur.
So, here goes. Stephen begins, quoting from of the series.
"We, all of us, no matter who we are, where we are from, our education, religion, or material state, we all have one thing in common. We desire to make beauty. We want it around us, and we want it on us...."
Of course - I - feel this but, sadly, I can't agree with you that this is a universal desire. I think many have little or no idea of beauty or belief that beauty is even a "real thing", a worthy consideration, or something worth striving for. I think that more and more - probably more so in more technologically advanced and "first world" communities - FUNCTION and comfort are really the only real consideration for very many people. And I think that is a growing "trend". Of course I think that's... awful!
Oooooh what an interesting comment. So here's what I counter with. Sure, there are many, MANY, who manifest something you, or I might not deem beautiful, because we are, well, frankly, who we are. What they see as beautiful is no less valid than what we do, though we, from our own position, and perspectives, can't quite relate. I still hold that the desire to attain beauty, either be acquiring it in some way through purchase, working out, or surgery, or the expedient of following fashion slavishly, leads to the same beginning point. We want, all of us want, to be seen, acknowledged as worthy, (beautiful in some fashion). And it is simply the inventiveness, and endless creativity of humankind that makes this hard for some of us to see when we're looking at it. All the hipster dudes on Trendy Third in Portland think they are beautiful, in one way or another. They have their beards, bow ties, and skinny jeans. And all those markers mark them, temporarily as beautiful, because they reference a current cultural meme. What you were talking about is along those same lines. There are evanescent versions of beauty that slip in an out of view all the time. We tend not to think of them as beautiful, rather as trendy, or fashionable. We separate them from beauty, because we think of beauty as an eternal quality. And it is. But. these short term things are also beautiful, sometimes simply because they are so ephemeral. I glory in these little bursts of lovely. Even when they are sublimely silly. Because we are nothing whatever if we cannot laugh at our own follies.
So, when you imply people have walked away from the search for beauty, or perfection, I disagree. It is simply that the path they have chosen is not one we readily understand. Sure, I have no love for the hipster look. It bores me intensely. And, that said, I am willing to own that it has its own validity, short term, I grant you, but validity, nonetheless. Its just like a flower that blooms for a day, and dies. Its no less lovely, in fact it may be more so, simply for its rarity.
(I only read your response here after I've already read today's post related to this. Thank you for my anonymous co-starring role! ; ) ) I agree with what you say here - to a point. There are all sorts of degrees of beauty, I'll admit. And maybe nothing expresses the temporary, accidental form of beauty better than that dancing plastic bag in "American Beauty". But I also think that the word is too easily applied to too much. We don't really have language to express that temporary, fashionable attractiveness that passes for what we too easily label "beauty". I'm afraid I see beauty as a very serious business - it rather is my actual business - so no matter if it's clothing, music, art, whatever we're taking about, whether accidental, of Nature, or carelessly or very carefully thought out, my internal mechanism is constantly on alert, judging yea or nay or somewhere in between. I am a "beauty monitor", I'm afraid, and an extreme example! ; )
And perhaps, dear Stephen, we have a differing view of the usage of the word beauty. For me, beauty is something that leaves me breathless, whether that be something designed, and created by the greatest master artist, or the most anonymous, random assortment of items assembled by a stranger on the street. To me, and I do not impute this as belonging to you in any way, to me, beauty is something the informs, and effects every aspect of us, every day. We live beauty, because, in our innermost selves, it is the sensual, and logical center-point of our being. We desire beauty above everything, for one reason. It is not that beauty is the obvious sexual center, or that it simply makes us smile. Its not that obvious. We need beauty, all around us, because we know in some unspoken part of us, that it is the manifest physical expression of who we are as individuals, and as a species. And no one could argue that we do not build, create and extend ourselves, to make sure the Universe knows that, we were here.
Again I say that I wish we had better language for expressing the different varieties of what we lump all together and call "beauty". Something that would distinguish between the subtle but very real differences.
In the second half of your comment above, you lapse into "we". Who is the "we"? If you mean the two of us, I agree wholeheartedly. But I would still say that there's a whole lot of "them" out there who do not line up with your rosy take on the beauty-seeking soul of all mankind; I think you a bit of a romantic, mon vieux! I do believe that most if not all humans can develop an appreciation/recognition of all the forms of beauty present all around us, whether the impetus is inborn or takes cultivation but, to continue with my farming metaphor, I think there are many who are a barren field, and need a whole lot of care to develop certain sensitivities.
And just to be clear, this isn't even a snobbish argument about - what - any given human finds beautiful. It's about whether ALL people respond to beauty - by whatever definition - whether consciously or unconsciously. And I would counter your argument by saying that, through inborn inability/baseline personality or through lack of cultivation/life experience, very many people do not. Which, of course, is a very dreadful thing to say. : (
First of all, Stephen, this is exactly the sort of dialog I have been hoping so passionately for to occur here, or on facebook. The thoughts and opinions of minds that are willing the search, change, and explore. THANK you. So much. Thanks. I admit here and now, that I have a Pollyanna aspect that will always face forward and positively. I don't apologize for it, nor will I retreat from it. Its my place. I do, though, see what you are telling me. I am fully aware that many people have neither the intelligence, the skill set, or the desire, to acknowledge any sort of beauty beyond a very narrow range that fits their limited perceptions. I absolutely get that. What I go forward with, though, is that that does not negate the existence of the desire for beauty. What perhaps I had not communicated effectively at first is this. We have this thing in us. We can squash it, we can ignore it, we can call it silly if we wish. Some have said its the work of the devil. However it happens, whatever invades it, and keeps it from expressing itself with freedom, it is there. It is there in each of us. Some of us end up enslaving multitudes in search of it. Others build empires around the ideal of a single human concept. Others manipulate the world around them to try and make it fit their vision of what is beautiful, only to discover that everyone else perceives it as horror. That does not change the essential truth that somewhere inside each of us, no matter how warped it may get, there is the desire to achieve beauty. and, by association, perfection.
Doood, you're talking about me! Hehe. Thank you; I'm flattered. And I - totally - agree with everything you've said here.
I do recognize that there's often a big difference in perception between myself and the young folk. A good example would be the wearing of bicycling clothes as "daywear". I think they look horrible on even the most beautiful body, while so many think they're flattering and - actually - beautiful. But I also really do think that there's much in our tech-y, harsh modern environment that wears down some of the more sensitive of our sensory receptors. Does a steady diet of Nikki Minaj - (sp?); I really don't know who she is - make one less likely to see the value in Bach or Puccini? Does a constant rotation of sweatpants and Uggs in one's attire and that of one's friends make it more likely that one will find a Dior ballgown ridiculous rather than a precious object? If you're taught - if you're taught at all - that Koons and Murakami are great, important artists, what can you make of a Caravaggio or a Boucher? I think these are important questions. And I'm not at all hopeful of the answers.
It is true, Stephen, that we are seeing a dearth of interest in what you and I would call art, culture and, staying with the topic, perfection in beauty. But, we are also seeing an expansion of what we acknowledge as beautiful. Perhaps what is occurring for folk like you and I, who are trying to stay involved, and informed, is that the speed, and distance that is being expressed is simply outpacing us. I hate, I TRULY hate to think that I'm not up to the mark with evolving trend. But I have to admit that I am, at heart, a child of my time, and my nurture.Is it, at the end, really just that I cannot connect fully with what is going on? Or is there another, deeper layer to this that we haven't plumbed?
Talk to me, dude.
While there is certainly a generational aspect, it's more than that, I think. It isn't just our inability to keep up. I think there have been deep societal changes - again, the influence of advanced technology is maybe the largest part of it - that have significantly altered our perceptions, our - ability - to perceive. The way that media is now so all-encompassing - and, yes, good old television got the ball rolling - the way it is so omnipresent MUST have a huge impact on our puny brains - and in way we haven't even begun to understand; you watch umpteen hours of television a day or are constantly plugged into your ipad or pod and, no matter the content, it - changes - you. And if we examine the content of our contemporary media...? Again, for us, what I would call, "preservationists", I think the situation is rather distressing: will the brains we're saving this stuff for be able to access and appreciate it?
And, if I stand back from my statements, part of me wants to say, "Come on, dude, lighten up. You're over-reacting; it's not - that - important". But I guess I do think it's that important.... : )
We, none of us, can stand back and say there have not been profound changes to what, and who we are, because of the influence of the technologies we have created with our wildly inventive primate brains. I would be the least, and last of those to claim otherwise. Perhaps what we are looking at here is a global, species wide tipping point. Perhaps what we are standing on the brink of, is a quantum change in the very notion of what it means to be a homo sapiens person.
Are we about to birth Homo Sapiens Sapiens 2.0? Maybe so. certainly the stresses we face every single day, created by our own hands are pushing us to evolve. Can we do it in time? I don't know. The Pollyanna person within me says yes. But being fully honest, I really don't know if we will make the leap to the next phase, whatever that may be.