Friday, January 15, 2016

When Beauty Goes on Strike

Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la Guerra (1810-20) 11, inappropriately commenting on political events instead of leaving these matters to well-informed commentators, revealing himself to be a posthumanist artist, sadly unconcerned with the spiritual function of beauty in making us better, more gracious people. Via NapoleonGuide.

Q: When is sex not sex?
A: When David Brooks is writing about it. It has to be something nobler and more excellent. Like humanism, the view that "beauty conquers the deadening aspects of routine; it educates the emotions, and connects us to the eternal." Or having "a finer sense of how to move with graciousness through the tribulations of life." Or, oh hell—
Verbatim David Brooks, "When Beauty Strikes", New York Times, January 15 2016:
Today the word eros refers to sex, but to the Greeks it meant the fervent desire to reach excellence and deepen the voyage of life. This eros is a powerful longing. Whenever you see people doing art, whether they are amateurs at a swing dance class or a professional painter, you invariably see them trying to get better. “I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart,” Vincent van Gogh wrote.
Via Independent Retailer.
Can I see a source for that statement about the beliefs of the Greeks, please? I can't find anything online. For instance Wikipedia claims that
ἔρως érōs "love" or "desire") is one of the four words in Ancient Greek which can be rendered into English as “love”. The other three are storgephilia and agapeEros refers to “intimate love” or romantic love; storge to familial love; philia to friendship as a kind of love; and agape refers to “selfless love”, or “charity” as it is translated in the Christian scriptures
Nothing about striving for excellence there I can see.
In the classical world, erotic love was generally referred to as a kind of madness or theia mania ("madness from the gods").[2] This love passion was described through an elaborate metaphoric and mythological schema involving "love's arrows" or "love darts", the source of which was often the personified figure of Eros (or his Latin counterpart, Cupid),[3] or another deity (such as Rumor[4]). At times the source of the arrows was said to be the image of the beautiful love object itself. If these arrows were to arrive at the lover's eyes, they would then travel to and 'pierce' or 'wound' his or her heart and overwhelm him/her with desire and longing (love sickness). The image of the "arrow's wound" was sometimes used to create oxymorons and rhetorical antithesis concerning its pleasure and pain.
Are you sure you don't mean the Ancient Victorians, said to have dressed the legs (or "limbs") of their pianos in frilly pantaloons so that the sight of them would not arouse any indecent thoughts? They are surely the ancestors of the Brooksian aesthetic theory.

Whereas in our posthumanist world (Leon Wieseltier's word), beauty apparently fails to conquer the deadening aspects of routine, though it may I suppose conquer some of its other aspects, and leaves the emotions poorly educated, so that they may have difficulty finding really good jobs. This is why it's no longer worth the effort to strive for excellence, though at the same time amateurs at a swing dance class and professional painters do carry on. Perhaps this is a dialectical thesis-and-antithesis type of issue.
Some people call eros the fierce longing for truth. “Making your unknown known is the important thing,” Georgia O’Keeffe wrote.
How many people call eros "the fierce longing for truth"? Name three. In your answer, be sure to take account of Georgia O'Keeffe's influence on Donald Rumsfeld.
Others describe eros as a more spiritual or religious longing. They note that beauty is numinous and fleeting, a passing experience that enlarges the soul and gives us a glimpse of the sacred.
Ah, there we are at last—certainly took your time getting there! It's world-famous aesthetician David Brooks, explaining how art puts us in touch with that Higher Power, or used to do, back in humanist times, whereas nowadays artists have descended to the level of ordinary folk arguing about politics:
For some reason many artists prefer to descend to the level of us pundits. Abandoning their natural turf, the depths of emotion, symbol, myth and the inner life, they decided that relevance meant naked partisan stance-taking in the outer world (often in ignorance of the complexity of the evidence). 
Just as David Brooks abandoned his natural turf of naked partisan stance-taking to spread the beastly-bourgeois tsk-tsk view of emotion, symbol, myth, and the inner life, at least two or three times a month. It's the world turned upside down!

More, obviously, from Driftglass. I may get back to it later myself, this could be the Rectification Worst Brooks of the Year.

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