Sucking the Blood out of a Mosquito

I considered titling this post ‘On Surrealism’, but ‘Sucking the Blood out of a Mosquito’ sounded less stodgy, so I went with that.  Sorry if it grosses you out a little.  Anyway, here it is:

It was one of the primary goals of the surrealist movement to astonish its audience.  I believe the surrealists have succeeded wonderfully in that regard, but I am not sure to what end.  In terms of the impact, there is little difference between a hare getting a tortoisecut and an apple crawling out of a worm—both are surreal and astonishing, but neither one communicates to us a particular truth or wonder.  It seems that in trying desperately to liberate his expressive palette, the surrealist has actually restricted it and very nearly reduced it to utter meaninglessness.  Instead of reconciling fantasy with reality, he has rejected reality altogether, turning inward to the more vivid but even less satisfying world his of imagination.

Salvador Dalí (1904 – 1989) was a Spanish surrealist painter, and at times, a devout Catholic.  He is probably most famous for painting this:

The_Persistence_of_Memory
The Persistence of Memory

Perhaps, considering how iconoclastic a movement he followed, it might astonish us that Dalí was ever a Catholic.  But I think this only reflects how greatly our modern society tends to misunderstand what it means to be Christian.  Unlike Surrealism, Christianity is an ideology with no preference for either novelty or convention.  The Surrealist movement has existed entirely for the sake of revolution—take away the radicalism and the astonishment dies.  But Christianity makes no comment on either the radical or the obvious, and if it harbours any implicit affiliation with tradition, it is that religious tradition exists for the sake of Christianity and not the other way around.  However, while the novelty of Surrealism then poses no incompatibility in itself, there still seems to be a conflict between the Surrealist movement as it originally began and Christianity.  That conflict is the alleged rejection of reason.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, there really is no such thing as illogical thought.  One can believe in the irrational but not experience it.  And this belief is what fuels conventional surrealist art, while also providing its greatest shortcoming.  What I find so uninteresting about an apple crawling out of a worm is not the situation itself, but its implied context.  Surrealism cannot help but take place in a world with no rules, a world with no limitations or conflicts.  But these adversities are the very things that make earthly life interesting in the first place, and to exclude them from an imitation of nature is to overlook the most beautiful thing on this side of eternity: the resolution of dissonance.  Good art doesn’t astonish merely for the sake of astonishment; instead it imitates nature, and that is astonishing in itself.  Perhaps making that kind of art might entail hares getting tortoisecuts or sucking the blood out of mosquitos, but at the same time, every incongruity ought to be rationally explained, and that will make it all the more beautiful.

Sometimes as Christians we can forget how astonishing the world really is.  We too might think that the only recourse from the dull vexation of this revolving planet under the sun is some kind of escape.  But in actuality, we need no compensation for the truth.  There is in fact nothing more astonishing than the most fundamental reality of our lives:

Dalí's painting of the Passion of Christ.
Dalí’s painting of the Passion of Christ.

 

There is nothing illogical about God’s creation, but everything about it is astonishing.  For we could not imagine something more beautiful or surreal than what Our Saviour has done for us in reality.  And what is the purpose of art or even of fantasy if not to reinvigorate once again our astonishment with that truth?

Incidentally, Dalí was also fascinated with rhinoceroses.

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Simple, not Minimalist

lucem at quoque noctem plus vel enim amo.

Upon moving into my residence hall here at the university last week, I encountered a bit of difficulty.  It seemed my plans were too complicated for the room.  The microwave plug didn’t fit into the power strip and this meant that the whole apparatus I had formed—with the printer on top of the microwave and the microwave on top of the refrigerator—had to be relocated to a place in the room that would better accommodate for all the electrical connections.  I had, from the start, opposed my bringing of so many appliances to school, but my parents insisted that I do so in order to make the place more comfortable and ‘home-like’.

After trying out a few different arrangements of the room, each one feeling more cramped than the last, I settled on stuffing all the appliances except the refrigerator into a small storage space in the upper part of the wardrobe and moving the furniture into the least confining arrangement possible.  When I was all done with this, I felt quite remarkably liberated; suddenly the little space, which had seemed very much to resemble a prison only moments ago, transformed itself into a rather pleasant study and dormitory.  Now I have a big beautiful desk basking in natural sunlight beside the window where I can lay out my orchestra scores to work (see figure 1).

I told my mum how I felt about this when I rang her up that evening.  She and I both agreed that if I felt more comfortable without all the clutter, I didn’t need to use it, seeing as comfort was the original purpose of the supplies.  As I write this, all of the mentioned supplies, along with several other items, are sitting in that storage place, waiting patiently to be brought home.  The new order of my room is by no means minimalistic—aside from the refrigerator I mentioned, I also have here a good number of my books and my unicycle—but it is simple.  That’s the beauty of it.

On the same day that I made these arrangements, I was thinking about economic styles of music, art, and writing.  Among the many examples of the aesthetic I had in mind were a couple of scenes in Shakespeare, that popped into my head, as well as the opening line of Milton’s famous epic, which reads:  “Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree”.  Part of the brilliance of this line is how simply it conveys something so large and complicated.  Instead of droning on and on pedantically to lay out the details of a theological framework for the ‘fall of man’, Milton leans into the lexical and philosophical associations already built into the English language—perhaps placed their directly by the hand of God himself—in order to discuss not only the hamartiology of an ‘original sin’ or ‘total depravity’, nor the soteriology of ‘salvation’, but the entire human understanding of all the associated ideas, dreamings, and truths that have been passed down via the Indo-European language from before the time of the Romans to the present, now to be contained in the single English word ‘fruit’.

You may have already sensed this by now if you read this blog often, but I am, quite frankly, all about complexity.  I make nearly every form of art or study that I engage in as complicated as I possibly can.  But the reason things ought to be so complex, in my mind, is because that’s the only way they can become simple.  One of the greatest transformations that western languages have undergone over time is simplification.  Dead languages often have very complicated grammars, and it is through these original complex systems that modern languages have come to posses the power they hold today in their much simpler forms.  We might also note, however, the way this complexity supported something simpler even in the ancient languages themselves.  If this post were written in Ancient Greek or Latin, you would probably be finished reading it by now (assuming you were as fluent in one of those languages as you are in English).   Indeed, you would have probably finished reading a good while ago; the reason for this is that the more complicated grammars allowed for more economic communication—simpler sentences had more complicated meanings than in modern English.

I am not here by proposing that ‘less is more’.  That’s ridiculous!  Less is less.  But somehow the God of the universe has been able to communicate to humanity everything they need to know in order to be self-conscious and self-willing creatures, and if so much is possible, then is it not our duty, as artists, thinkers, and human beings, to at least try, by virtue of that very possibility, to stuff the entire human experience into something portable and sharable?

The beauty of fractals is that no matter how much or how little of their detail you can make out, they look similar and appear the same.

On Aesthetics and Existence

Suppose there were some sort of nonhuman, rational being wandering the earth and observing human life.  This nonhuman, we will call him a ‘metahuman’, has nothing in common with humanity except reason alone.  He doesn’t experience the same desires that we do, nor possess the same needs.  In fact, let us say that he is subject to no desires or needs whatsoever.  As he makes his way through our curious little planet, he encounters a good number of phenomena with which his rationality is perfectly reconciled.  By virtue of being rational, he understands that a being must act in promotion of its own sustainment; this is simply a manifestation of adherence to the core principle of rationality–noncontradiction.  And so it comes as no surprise to him that people eat food.  A quick explanation of the natural science behind the human anatomy allows him to understand this act as rational and noncontradictory to existence.  He is also at ease when he sees people working for money to buy that food, exercising to help maintain the body in other ways, and getting married to help maintain the population.  With all these things, I believe our metahumane friend would be quite satisfied.

There is, however, an aspect of the human experience that I suspect might not sit as well with him.  That aspect is human philocaly, the love of beauty.  Upon extended observation of human living, I believe he might find himself asking, “why do these creatures so fastidiously obsess themselves with matters of absolutely no relevance to their existence?”  “Why,” he might ask, “do the sit for long hours watching the sunrise?  why do they drive themselves mad over the colours of oils on canvases or arrangements of sounds over time?  The time they spend on these things could be better spent working for food, eating food, exercising, or reproducing.” It seems that art is a superfluous facet of human existence.

However, while such an observation might vex our metahuman, if he is capable of being vexed, I do not think that he should outright object to it.  There is, after all, nothing inherently self-contradictory about art.  Art is, by all means, rationally permissible, but what the metahuman would understand, and we must realise, is that, ostensibly, art is rationally unnecessary.

It seems that art neither opposes nor promotes human existence.  And for the metahuman, a being’s existence is the first step in a deductive proof that merits his or her actions.  By taking existence as a given, the metahuman can prove that a human being must eat and exercise and must not undergo self-imposed starvation or deprival of exercise because such do’s and don’t’s are rationally necessary.  All behaviour that a being exhibits is only made possible by his or her existence, and so, in order to be rationally sound, none of such behaviour may oppose that being’s existence, for to do so would be to create, as it were, a contradiction in the normative ‘proof of actions’.  In other words, there is a logical fallacy in a chain of reasoning that reads, “A exists, therefore A acts, therefore A does not exist”*.  Likewise, there are certain actions that a being must take in order to sustain existence, which may be called ‘rationally necessary’.  Obviously, to neglect to do such things is to passively oppose existence and to, therefore, once again create a logical fallacy.  Ergo, all rational beings are demanded, by their reason, to avoid actions that oppose their existence and execute those that promote it.

However, in a sense, art neither promotes nor opposes human existence.  No one has ever starved from musical malnourishment (though I have had nightmares …) nor died of prolonged exposure to oil paintings.  It seems then, at least prima facie, that art has no baring on the metahuman’s proof of actions.  Hence, how it should be handled in the formal proof becomes quite a difficult matter.  Occam’s Razor might suggest that we remove it by default, but this seems a mere ‘easy way out’ of a question that rests on empirical evidence which powerfully suggests alternatives. The very fact that humans do indeed partake in the enjoyment of art seems to suggest that Occam’s Razor cannot be here applicable for one of three reasons: (1) humanity is not rational after all, as demonstrated by her irrational aesthetic passions, (2) art is a necessary part of the proof of actions in some more nuanced way than we have yet understood, or (3) art is necessitated by something other than the ‘primal premise’ in the proof of actions.

(By ‘primal premise,’ I mean existence; the jargon is intended to portray the analogical link between this and the Primal Cause Argument for the existence of God.  It is supposed, under the Primal Cause Argument, that given the existence of the universe and humanity, within the context of causality, a ‘primal cause’ that came first and without a cause of its own is a metaphysical necessity.  Our currant discourse takes the existence of humanity as the ‘primal premise’ in a proof of actions that demonstrates the rational necessity of self-sustainment.  This link will be important later on.)

Of course the first of these three reasons is, in its present form, utterly absurd because it denies the existence of human reason, on which it is dependent, as evidenced by its classification as a ‘reason’.  However, we might refine it a bit to say that, while humanity is capable of being rational, art is an example of her departure from rationality, however exceptional such a behaviour might be for her.  But that is a rather lame explanation of art, especially considering the fact that this blog purposes to demonstrate that beauty is a fractal construct of reason.  Therefore, we will be finding that the better option is either two or three.

In order to consider the reason for human philocaly, we must begin by considering the reason for human philosophy˚.  As it turns out, human philosophy is indeed rationally necessary, however its necessity is less clearly linked to the ‘primal premise’.  If belief is–as many have considered it to be–the act of depending on a supposed truth, then human beings have no choice but to believe in some things and not in others.  By sitting here, typing this post, I am believing that my computer will not explode in my face and kill me.  I am counting on that fact.  If I were to believe that my computer is going to explode, then my act of writing this post would be irrational, as it would be opposing my existence.  Hence, in order to be a rational being, I must believe certain things and not others (which, in this case, means that, given my sitting here typing, I must believe that my computer will not explode and not that it will).  This is because the rationality of an act (i.e. its promotion and non-opposition of existence) is dependent on certain suppositions that surround the act–that is, we must ‘count on’ or ‘believe in’ certain supposed truths in order for the action, or more accurately, the intention behind the action, to be classifiable as an action (or intention) of self-sustainment.  But the only rational way I can arrive at a belief is by way of philosophy.  In other words, it is irrational to count on the veracity of a given supposition without reason to do so.  Hence, the existence of reason (which is simply a more specific facet of the ‘primal premise’) is self-sustained by philosophy.  And so, philosophy is rationally necessary.

Recall from the previous ALUC posts that art, the discourse of emotions, is really an extension of philosophy, the discourse of reason, in that emotions are fractal constructs of rational processes.  Therefore, it seems that art may be necessitated by the mere fact of philosophy’s necessity.  If we are required, by reason, to rationally deliberate truth in order to arrive at rational beliefs, then why would we not also be required to do the same emotionally?  Human engagement in art is, in this sense, simply a way of making use of all methods of discovering truth available to the human.

Now would be a good point in the essay to point out a flaw in our model of reason thus far; I think I’ll do just that: The average Christian or reasonable thinker reading this post has already been quite troubled by the whole idea of self-sustainment.  We Kantian moralists, who make up most of the world, like to think that morality is an extension of rationality, and as such, must be governed by the laws of reason.  Therefore, the idea that reason would incessantly demand our constant attendance to self-sustainment is troubling to the Christian who believes that self-sacrifice is the core principle of all morality.  Hence, it seems our model has been all too simple.

Allow me, therefore, to do a bit of remodelling.  In Computer Science (the science of programming computers) there are conceptual entities called “objects”.  An “object” is something that sits out somewhere in the computer’s memory and can be called to perform tasks or can be acted on by other objects.  The particular tasks that a given object might be able to perform are decided on by the programer, and the possibilities are nearly endless.  However, one task that an object can never perform is self-deletion.  This is because of the logical fallacy that we have been discussing; it simply doesn’t make logical sense for something to destroy itself, and computer science reflects this inescapable normative principle.  However, sometimes, as you might imagine, objects do in fact need to be deleted.  For this task, the system itself must be called.  In other words, to delete an object, we must act not within the object’s personal scope, but within a larger scope that contains the object, which is called the system in the case of computer science.

A very similar phenomenon occurs in life outside of computers.  Sometimes there comes a point when objects need to be deleted, persons need to die.  At such a time, the principle still holds that a moral agent cannot delete himself, but a larger scope must be called on for his deletion.  So far, we have discussed the proof of actions as a self-contained system of rationality—something that is demanded to be non-contradictory with itself.  But if reality is fractal, then this “larger scope” that we are calling on must actually be self-similar; it must be similar to the “proof of actions” construct which it contains.  Hence, the deletion of a person must be appealed to the primal premise not of a proof of actions contained within the person, but of such a proof contained only by the scope of reality itself.

If you’re wondering what such a primal premise could possibly be, recall the disgustingly long and tastelessly obtrusive parenthetical element above in which the link between a ‘primal premise’ and a ‘primal cause’ was alluded to.  Herein lies the point: if the self-similar construct that is reality contains moral agents with proofs of actions that are premised on the respective existences of those agents, then reality itself is a massive proof of actions that is premised on its own existence (and since its existence is premised on its primal cause, we may say that this is the primal premise of the universal proof of actions, and consequentially, is the universal analogue of a moral agent’s existence).  Hence, the first line of the universal proof of actions reads: “Reality is.”  And because reality is subject to logic, all following lines must be non-contradictory to the existence of reality—or more specifically, to the existence of the primal cause and its particular nature.

And so, we appeal to this universal proof of actions for the deletion of a person; however, even within this larger scope, the deletions of persons is irrational.  Because reality is fractal, the principle that a moral agent cannot be deleted (which originates within the scope of the agent himself as a principle of self-sustainment) is reconstructed in larger, congruent scopes by necessity, including the scope of reality itself.  So the fact that there come occasions when persons must be deleted poses a serious threat to the logical soundness of the universal system (reality).

However, notice the phrase “a person must be deleted”; this implies that the deletion of the person is logically necessary.  Hence, we have a contradiction.  The principle of non-deletion that is perpetuated up through the self-similar system demands that persons are never deleted, however, sometimes reality demands that they are (e.g. in the case of war).  This tells us that something went wrong earlier in the proof of actions; some phenomenon has opposed reality and defied logic.  We will explore the phenomenon in a later post.  At present, we must merely understand that there is a contradiction, and that the contradiction must be fixed.  Logic demands that something be done in the universal proof of actions in order to correct the error.

So allow me to present the contradiction clearly:  Two moral agents are placed on a metaphysical see-saw, but only one is allowed to step off, leaving the other to go hurling down through the endless abyss of nonexistence (that is, of death or whatever the particular situation calls for).  Each moral agent is demanded to preserve both himself (by his own proof of actions) and the other agent (by a congruent construct of the other agent’s proof of actions).  It’s quite a pickle.  The only rational solution is the beautiful mathematical principle of Substitution.  One of the agents must choose to substitute his own primal premise with that of the other agent; that is, he must value the other agent’s existence in place of his own.  People less esoteric and nerdy than myself call this “love”.

That is exactly what has happened in the case of the universal proof of actions.  As a consequence of some error, humanity got set on a chain of reasoning that leads directly to death, but because it is logically necessary for man to keep on existing, the Primal Cause himself made the Grand Substitution.  The existence of man was substituted for the existence of Reality, causing all the equations to boggle about as reality demanded its own destruction and the very principle that called  for the deletion to be made was set to be deleted, reversing the error and undefying logic.  All this, we know, must have happened for two reasons: (1) it is the only possible solution to the contradiction, and (2) it maintains self-similarity with other proofs of actions (e.g. when a man sacrifices his life for his country).

As a result of all this, Substitution has become a principle of logic.  It logically necessary (and therefore morally right) for persons to sacrifice themselves for others because Reality has sacrificed itself for them.  The principle of Substitution trickles down to latter iterations of the universal fractal in this way.  For that matter, I might point out that logic is simply defined by whatever the Primal Cause does.  In other words, self-sustainment is logically necessary because the Primal Cause exists and continues to exist, and self-sacrifice is logically necessary because the Primal Cause sacrifices itself; every action that the Primal Cause takes is imitated in every smaller scope of reality due to its self-similar structure—that’s what logic is.

So logic is defined by the actions of the Primal Cause.  This might leave us wondering: why does the Primal Cause act in the way it does?  Or to put it more bluntly, what defines the actions of the Primal Cause?  The only answer I have for this is “the Primal Will”.  The “Primal Will” is the end of the line in the determining of actions.  The Primal Cause does what it does simply because that’s the way things Absolutely are.  Christians and non-christians alike might find interesting what the Bible has to say about this.  In Revelations 4: 11, it say, “You are worthy, our Lord and our God, to receive Glory and Honour and Power, because you created all things and through your will they exist and were created”.  Where I have translated “through your will,” the ancient Greek reads “διὰ τὸ θέλημά σου” which we might also translate “because of your pleasure”.  So in one sense, we understand that things are the way they are because they ought to be (because it’s God’s will), but in another sense, they’re just that way for the fun of it (because of God’s pleasure).  Either way, the verse contends that He is to receive glory and honour for this—God’s will or pleasure is absolutely Good.  However, what this means is that as intricate and difficult to decipher as reality is, the fractal is that way in part because that is how it ought to be, but also simply for the mere fun of it.  God choose to create, to love, and to die for that love for the sake of his good pleasure, his θέλημά.

Now that was a pretty long tangent.  Remember, this post is about philocaly.  And so I ask what is art if not the highest form of Substitution available to man?  Art is the surrendering of one’s self to beauty, the giving of one’s soul to all of humanity.  An artist is demanded to be courageous and bold; he must wildly surrender everything with which his creator has endowed him to the creation of something beautiful—a love letter to humanity.  When he performs this creative task, he is acting rationally and in congruity with his maker’s primal act of creation and self-sacrifice, which was conducted under the Καλός Θέλημά (Good Will or Beautiful Pleasure, Καλός being the word from whence we get ‘philocaly’ – the love of beauty; the love of good).

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* Obviously an application of the transitive property to this statement makes it read “A exists, therefore A does not exist,” which, needless to say, is utter nonsense.

˚Just when you thought those ivory towers couldn’t grow any higher and the thinkers inside them couldn’t become anymore distanced from the real world, the philosophers start philosophising about philosophy.

Dust Remains

What is this flesh that does so body a man?

This dust we obsequiously tend to as if unpriced,

Or price it as we may, the less shall move

Our obstinate obsession with this thing of nothingness.

Though we say “’tis kin to dust,” our minds we fool

Not in themselves but in their dusty tombs.

For dust would play the part of man, and man-

The beast he is-would play the which of dust,

But none shall win this player’s game whose stage

Is but a set

for this to follow that

And death to follow life, though only a fool,

Blinded to sight, would see not through the act.

For whence the curtains go forth once more to fall,

The scrupulous man shall see the set the same

As it was at the start of the show, ere they did draw,

And this dust was not a man but dust remains.

Aesthetics

It is most common, in the music compositional world, that upon meeting a new person and discovering some of his or her thoughts or attitudes about art, one quickly finds that he or she is the sort of person for whom music is an outward action possessing little more personal connection to the self than the physical appearance. I do not wish to overly condemn the use of the physical appearance as a means of communication.  Though I am utterly appalled at the modern, superficial obsession with the body and all things temporal, I do not object to, but, on the contrary, encourage, the use of the outward appearance as a means of conveying the inward, and therefore it is even appropriate that the physical appearance should, at times, be considered a part of the entity that we call a mortal human being. It should, however, never be forgotten that all this is merely the mortal expression or embodiment of an everlasting splendor.  That being the end for which we have the outward appearance, we must consider how one should ‘design’ such a faculty.

Consequentially, it seems to me quite clear that the physical appearance should be among the least important parts of the embodiment.  While the way one carries, dresses, or takes care of one’s self physically does say a small thing about him or her, it is, doubtlessly, among the most impersonal of his or her means of expression.  It is also, therefore, the most barbaric and inhuman.  Thus, to hold art in a similar fashion seems to me utterly absurd, and even irresponsible, considering that it is capable of so much more. Rather than holding it at such a distance, we should let it contain our very hearts in much the same way that our bodies contain them physically.  Not that it is our ultimate love, but that it is among the most intimate embodiments of ourselves. Art is not something that exists outside of us, that we may sit around drinking tea and making rhetorical comments about˚.  No, art is the embodiment of the human experience; it is something that we are all invited to become a part of.

The acceptance of that invitation is an act that requires great courage and sincerity.  It is no small task to become a part of the human experience, the mortal beginnings of the immortal body of Christ, but that is the very thing that art demands of us.  We are not to be observers but members of art.  There should be no human scope which exists outside of the scope of a work of art–art is to be real.

It is for this very reason that great courage and sacrifice is required of the artist additionally.  No man should call himself an artist who creates a mere bit of light entertainment.  Art is not merely entertainment, an “escape from reality,” but rather the fuller realization of reality–there is a big difference between craftsmanship and artistry.  The artist is demanded to exist and to allow his existence to beget his art–thus making the perfect imitation of God’s creation of us.  He should, in fact, feel as though he has lost a part of himself into the work he has created†.

Indeed, there is no act of greater intimacy with the soul than that of artistic creation.  It is the act of stripping the spirit free of its mortal clothing leaving behind nothing but bare, naked humanity–or so is its goal.  Just as every other act done on the face of the earth, the act of art is incomplete.  It is the striving for freedom from mortal limits, but those limits remain ever in place until the end of earthly living.  We have but ‘la cima del purgatorio’ to await, and then too shall our souls be free of the outward appearance.

This is why John Milton so classically describes angels as being free to put on whatever physical form they desire at any given moment.  It leaves the soul (or, equally, the will) entirely exposed, bound to no immutable appearance, but entirely expressed in its every quality.

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˚ The irony is that I am writing this post about art and actually drinking tea throughout the entire process!  To be technical, the remark is more about the treatment of a work of art rather than of the subject of art in general.  Additionally, this point uses the notion of ‘the mockery,’ a concept about which I will likely post in the future (so tune in next time!).

† Art is much like the “tithing of the soul” in that it is an opportunity for the artist to give his soul back to God, to whom it belongs anyway (much like money), and in so doing display his absolute confidence that God will continue to provide.

The Art of Thought

It is not uncommon that upon entering a metaphysics discussion with an atheist or agnostic I find my intellectual partner to be rather excited about and in agreement with most all of what I have to say.  Usually, I find that people react most positively to my arguments, almost with a feeling that they know it’s true even beyond any intellectual inquiry–it simply “sounds so right.”

I am not writing this to tell you how great I am at debate or the like.  That is entirely irrelevant.  What makes my debating so effective is the content of its argument.  I cannot, in fact, come up with any other reasonable explanation for why what I have to say would resonate so well with others except that perhaps it’s because it’s true.  Indeed, it seems our minds have some sort of mechanism in their design such that they recognize truth when they see it.  I theorize that perhaps just as our souls are made for Heaven and may only find their perfect function there, so are our minds made for truth.  When we hear something true, it resonates with us better than something false simply because our minds were built for it.

It is for this reason that romantic philosophy is not entirely pointless.  It sounds strange that one would turn away from logic and “towards the emotions” to be used as faculties in the quest for truth.  What merit can be found in what one “feels to be true?”  But, while I would certainly not replace the role of logic with that of the emotions, a gut feeling about truth should by no means be regarded as utter human deficiency.  In fact, and with a largely overly simplified model, I believe that it is upon the marrying of these two faculties that our greatest intellectual progress is made.  If God made our minds to house truth, then it should be no surprise that they would have an instinct as to what is true.

Humanity must largely rely on this instinct in the debate between absolutism and relativism as well as for establishing any kind of logical scope.  While we cannot logically prove that logic is true, we know it is.  This is the art of thought.  For, as C. S. Lewis describes in his essay “Is Theology Poetry,” truth is very much like a pleasing aesthetic.  This is why much of good intellectual writing, even prose, seems like poetry, and why, conversely, much of good poetic or fictional writing is based upon sound philosophy. As Aristotle writes in his Poetics, and pardon my failure to find an exact quote: good poetry (as in theatrical tragedy) portrays the sort of thing that might happen if the beginning circumstances arose in real life; in other words, it is pleasing to the audience that the plot should follow the same “rules” or “natural progression” that real life does.  Thus good thinking and good art are much the same thing.

Postmodernism is just so silly

I don’t think this should take many words:

Just because a work of art can be beautiful in one language and ugly in another, as outlined in the previous post, doesn’t mean that we should create ugly things with the claim that they are not ugly because one could invent some ridiculous frame of reference in which they would be beautiful.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  Language is invented to communicate truth, not to cause something false to be true.  This is just silliness.  “It’s silly, silly, silly, just silly.”

Everyone knows better.

Absolutely Postmodern

Oh dear, I really have to stop being so self amusing with my titles.

A note to the reader: good luck.

Most recently I got myself into a discussion, as I have a most curious way of doing, about the absoluteness or relativeness of aesthetics.  My friend and I got to discussing the effects of frame of reference on the understanding of a work of art.  We both agreed that it was possible for an artist to create something that is excellent in his own culture and “artistic language” and horrid in another.  Where my friend and I differed, or perhaps, ironically, where we were unable to properly resolve our misunderstanding, was on the conclusion that should arise from such an axiom.  The reality is that while a work of art is not absolute, what a work is about is.  I may have been less than clear about this in my discussion.

What makes a work of art excellent is not that it is universally understood in all frames of reference, no work is, but rather that what it means is absolutely good.  That is, if art is bound to language, then of course its quality is relative and temporal, but its content need not be.  If I were to write the sentence “God is good” on a sheet of paper and mail it to someone in China, I should not reasonably expect the recipient to have the faintest understanding of it, but that doesn’t mean that God is not Absolutely good, that He is good here in America but not in China, it simply means that most people in China don’t speak English.  This example might seem rather trivial, but it is, I believe, the very heart of the issue.

We live in an age where Indian music is just a click away, African dance can be seen on TV, and Hispanic cultures are flourishing in our own neighborhoods.  What used to be an incalculable expanse of mystery and wonder, the earth, is now a small collection of stimuli that can be accessed right from our living rooms (or at least it seems this way)†.  But the truth of the matter is that we no nothing about Islamic sacred art, though we often might think we do.  Just because people in Japan find things to be beautiful that we do not doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as beauty, but rather, as I’ve been telling you all along, that Virgil is a pagan.

Every tribe and nation has a language and an art, and within that art and language they can say lovely things and horrible things.  But the art itself is not the lovely thing or the horrible thing, it is merely a means of communicating that thing.  Good art tells the story of God in mortal words, bad art doesn’t; it’s that simple˚.  But no art is God.  We may call a butterfly ‘beautiful,’ but only a pagan would worship a butterfly; in reality, the butterfly is not beautiful, but is rather a reminder of that which is beautiful, that of which we all know deep within our hearts but are yet to see face to face.  Butterflies are like Virgil.

In the classical world, it was less practically important that this distinction be made, but today, society stands no hope without this understanding.  As the world continues to progress in its complete accessibility, we draw perceptibly nearer to the end of time, “La cima del purgatorio,” and it becomes necessary for humanity to choose between art and beauty, Virgil and Heaven.  The world has always been full of Pagans, but never has Paganism posed so great a threat to the heart of mankind as it does today.  In classical times, paganism was among the most useful tools for building the church–for causing the “Word to become flesh.”  This is why Dante’s guid is so important to Him.  God built the church by transposing, as Lewis calls it, his fractal truth into something that could be held in the mortal minds of humanity.  He used language and art, pagan faculties, to communicate that which is immortal.  But now we are coming to the point where those faculties have served their purpose and are no longer needed, where “the word of the Lord has reached every nation.”  Mind you, I do not wish to say we are quite there yet, nor do I wish to comment on how close the end of time is (though it has always been very close), I merely wish to point out that this is the direction in which we are moving.

Please do not misunderstand me, La cima del purgatorio is much more than an artistic movement, but like most things in the scope of reality, it plays itself out over and over again in all different ways and on all different levels.  In art, we are reaching La cima del purgatorio where the mountain that sits below us is a symbol of the work we have done to understand language.  We are now coming to the point where we no longer need to believe that a work of art is Absolutely good or bad, but rather that Beauty and Goodness are Absolute and art is but the mortal expression of those immortal, Divine characteristics.  Our model of aesthetics has reached a new level of purity.  This is what the purgatory analogy is all about: we humans work and work to refine our models, our relationships with God, and our very beings, for this is good for us to do, even with our knowledge that all our toil does not even begin to close the gap between us and Heaven (the doctrine of sanctification). But there soon comes a point where we no longer need to work and God reaches down through His son and carries us home.

Reality is fractal, that is why, while our older models are true within their own scopes (thanks to the complex), they can always be “refined.”  We are essentially stretching their scopes.  It’s as if I thought my family was out of orange juice and so I told someone that I was going to go to the store to get some, but when I looked in the fridge I realized that we had orange juice but were instead lacking milk and went to get that instead. If after returning from the store with milk a family member asks me if I had gone to the store yet or if we had orange juice now, I may report that both are true and create for them a function accurate model of the truth; however, that model may further be refined if I told them the whole story.  In this example, the whole story is a finite set of facts; in the case of reality, the whole story is fractal.  Therefore, part our purpose as humans, while were here this short while, is to continue to refine our models–not so they can encompass the “whole story,” they never will, but rather because it is simply Good, in an Absolute sense, for us to do this.  It is an exercise of our finite love for God.  After all, it is out of this finite stuff that He is going to make us infinitely refined beings in Heaven; it is our duty to have faith the size of a mustard seed.

If good is infinite, it should not surprise us that there would be infinite finite ways to worship Him.  If God is Absolute, it should not surprise us that there would be ways to not worship Him.

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† This is a good example of why paganism must now die in a sense that it has not hitherto: the earth used to seem so beyond Human comprehension that one could get away with worshiping it or casting their worship of the true God onto the earth out of their ignorance of His name.  Now as the earth ‘shrinks,’ paganism begins to pose a new threat to humanity.

Art is trying to do the opposite, see “A Timeless Shakespeare”

˚ “There are two kinds of music: good music and bad music” -Louis Armstrong