Thursday, June 20, 2002

I'm not judging you, darling...I'm critiquing!

It's sometimes difficult to be a person of discernment in a live-and-let-live world. There's this idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that all things are a matter of taste, that one man's meat is another man's poison, etc., etc., et cetera.


Some things are simply better than others (is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Discuss) ...some things are more beautiful than others...there is good taste and there is bad taste...certain substances are meaty and certain substances are poisonous. There is such a thing as Æsthetics, and æsthetics has absolutes.

The trouble is that people don't take the time to consider what is truly Beautiful, finding it easier to be content with what one finds personally interesting or pleasurable. There are things which are erotic or which taste good or which satisfy our egos or which we find fascinating or which remind us of some happy memory, but which are not beautiful in and of themselves. There are things we like which are not necessarily good. There are things we want which are not really worthwhile.

As with the word Love, the word Beauty has come to be corrupted in the modern world. And it is one of my goals in life to purify that word for my own use so that I can understand exactly what it means...not just what it means to me, but its universal meaning. In the case of studying and contemplating æsthetics, I have to ask: what is universally beautiful? What physical things reflect perfection? (Physical things include light, sound, scent, and texture as well as shape...all that we can discern with our senses.)

The Ancient Greeks believed that physical perfection was a reflection of the Divine...that things (people, animals, buildings, pots, poems, plays, stones, trees, cloud-formations, etc.) which were physically beautiful or perfect were more divine and worthwhile and closer to God than things which were not beautiful. I believe this, too...that we can understand the nature of God by contemplating and seeking to understand nature and perfection and beauty. That one can worship God by seeking to understand, to reflect, and to add to the total amount of Perfect Form (which indicates the presence of God) in the universe.

But anyway, that's just my religion and philosophy. In practice it comes down to trying to keep my mind open to strange forms of beauty, to try and appreciate beauty outside of my cultural perceptions and pleasurable preferences. For example, I have a personal preference for Baroque Italian art over, say, African tribal art...the Italian Baroque painting appeals to me on erotic, social, and psychological levels that the African totem sculpture does not. But I try to study these things and discover what objects in each paradigm reflect actual Perfect Form. There are pieces of Baroque Italian art that I love, but which I can see are flawed or sloppy in their form; there are pieces of African tribal sculpture which, though they are not to my taste and not something I would want in my living room, are nevertheless breathtaking in their formal perfection.

It's also very difficult to separate Perfect Form in people from sexual attraction. There is no doubt that a young man or woman in peak physical condition, with a good complexion and all the hallmarks of sound health, contains a great degree of Perfect Form. This perfection causes pleasure in and of itself...but there is also this tie into our sexual æsthetics, which not only colors our perceptions but which also goes so far as to cloud our judgement.

For example, it is difficult for me to find Perfect Form in a nude female body because I find such things sexually repugnant, due to various psychological influences on my sexuality...and sexuality is stronger than intellect, no matter how intellectual you are. For the same reason, it is often difficult to see the pure æsthetic value in an elderly person, because he or she has passed beyond the norm associated with sexual reproduction that is instinctively built into our psyches.

I'm getting into deep water here. It's time to paddle back to shore, and play on the beach a little. If you want keep swimming and read more about Kant's Æsthetics and Teleology, I heartily recommend it. But I'm going to go play on the beach. And here on the beach, we don't play with philosophy, we play with...

Alliterative survey memes!

The Thursday Thumb-Twiddler for June 20th

1. You receive notification of jury duty. Do you go willingly, or do you try and find some way to beg off (or get yourself disqualified)? What if you were told that the case you were being impaneled for might go on for months? It has long been a dream of mine to serve on a jury. I've only been called for Jury Duty once, and the jury call was cancelled before I even got there. But I absolutely yearn to do my civic duty and lend my judgement to our Judicial System. Once there, though, I would probably be disqualified by my relationship with the Police (my uncle) and my off-with-her-head! temperament, though I would be highly desirable for my lack of knowledge of news events. It would suck to be on one of those endlessly-sequestered juries, like those poor schmucks in the OJ Simpson trial...but I think I would find entertainment therein. Hotel living is fun, and so long as the other jurors were worth socializing with, and so long as I had plenty of books to read and a computer to do some writing, I could manage.

2. Would you be willing to give up sex for one year if you knew it would give you a much deeper sense of peace than you have now? Honey, I haven't had sex in six years, and you would not believe the amount of inner peace I've achieved from that. But if we include masturbation, I think I would find it extremely difficult to "go without" for a whole year...I get grouchy if I go three days without. The only Inner Peace I would find at the end of that would be a shock-therapy-induced coma. On the other hand, if I was in a great deal of turmoil, and felt that total abstinence would cure me, I would probably give it a shot.

3. What's the most violent television show you watch? What about the most sexually graphic? The only violent shows I watch on television are cartoons...old Warner-Brothers classics, Invader Zim, the occasional Japanese anime whatnot, that's about as violent as I ever get. Physical violence in live-action TV tends to disturb and upset me, so I avoid it. The most sexually graphic TV show I watch is probably Queer as Folk...that is, in fact, my main reason for watching it! I'll watch almost anything if it's sexually graphic, those stupid straight faux-porn things that come on cable late at night, so long as the guys are cute...I have a most prurient mind, and love porn in all its forms and levels.


Well, my darlings, that's it for me. Have an æsthetically, erotically, and critically fabulous day!

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