Sunday, July 15, 2007

beauty, money, and other myths

I've been thinking a lot about beauty. Not in the sense that I've been applying more mascara than usual, because let's face it--is that even possible? but in the Edmund Burke/Immanuel Kant sense.

Peter Kreeft says he knows three former atheists who began believing in a divine being due to the music of Bach. "If there is the music of Bach, there must be a God," as Dr. Kreeft summed up the premise. (I think this is one of those statements that either make no sense in the world to you, or make all the sense in the world to you. Many statements end up like that. I can't decide myself what I make of the "If there is the music of Bach" premise. I've always believed in God so I do not know at all what it would take to convince me of the existence of God. I'm not convinced that it would be beauty, but it's been interesting to think of beauty as an attribute of God.) (God is that thing that nothing more beautiful can be conceived.)

I am a big, big Samuel Beckett fan. If I could have convinced my brother to team up with me, we would have gone as Didi and Gogo for Hallowe'en or something. (Heck, if I could have brought the trash heap with me, I could have been Winnie from Happy Days). But I don't at all consider Beckett's work beautiful.

I am trying to read Ulysses. I like Joyce. I liked Finnegan's Wake. (I tried to blog in that style once. It went like this: Paper cuts. Symbolism. -where's the milk, dad? -in the fridge where your mother left it---oygevaltdreidldreidl oatmeal. Shin splints. Shar pei.) But Modernism is not beauty. Deconstructionism is emphatically not beauty.

Beauty is Georges Seurat. (Impressionist with the dots, guys.) I've always really liked Stephen Sondheim's musical Sunday in the Park with George (parodied in tick... tick... BOOM!) which is inspired by the La Grande Jatte painting and is one long love song to beauty and a wrenching exploration of the creative process. (Besides, I loved that the name of fictionalized Seurat's fictionalized lover is Dot. It's funny. Because Seurat invented pointillism.)


More red...
And a little more red...
Blue blue blue blue
Blue blue blue blue." --Color and Light

And that, says Georges and Steve, in this musical, makes art. That makes beauty. Not all art is beauty. All beauty is art.

On a drastically different note, over the weekend, I read George Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying. (An aspidistra is apparently a very suburban-husfrau plant. It is a book about the victory of suburbia, middle-class values and a paycheck over the wounded ego of an anti-The Man poet hero.)

It has one of the most perverted introductory paragraphs I've ever read. More horrible than The Stepford Wives and listening to Tyra Banks' one single (Shake Ya Body, was that what it was called?) on repeat for two solid days or getting a root canal without anesthesia. It gave me chills.

The introductory paragraph was this:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not money, it profiteth me nothing. Money suffereth long, and is kind; money envieth not; money vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. . . . And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money.

I Corinthians xiii (adapted)"

Does this say anything about our society? I think it does, and I will write about it later.

By the way, I just figured out that the edition of The Brothers Karamazov that I just got used is an abridged version that doesn't have The Grand Inquisitor in it. (!) (!) (!). That's like having The Return of the King without the battle of Pellenor Fields. It's what would happen if Darth Vader wasn't Luke's father. It's like The Beatles without John Lennon OR George Harrison. (Although, honestly, Ringo was always my favorite. Because he was on Thomas, The Tank Engine and brought hours of happiness to my baby brother.) It's like a chocolate-covered, custard-filled Krispy Kreme donut with the custard filling sucked out. It's just bad.

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