Monday, May 14, 2007

Revelation and Other Babe Magnets

Ever since Einstein's revolution, it has been difficult to ask common sense questions of physics, such as "what kind of substance is the cosmos?" and "what sort of medium is it in?" Or, you can ask the question, but you will only get nonsensical answers. Well, not exactly nonsensical, but not fit for human consumption.

This is something Will touched on in his comments yesterday, and something that has been in the back of my mind for a while as an idea for a post, but I wasn't sure if I had the ability to translate Petey's pontifications into plain English. In fact, I'm still not sure.

But Will made some excellent points yesterday, which implicitly touch on how we have, in the last 100 years, essentially deferred the field of ontology to physicists, even though, if he is honest, the most brilliant quantum physicist doesn't really know what the hell is going on. In the end, he can only make inferences about reality that are strictly limited by the nature of small-r reason, which is a tool of the mind, not the totality thereof.

Popular books on quantum physics are a dime a dozen, but nearly all of them are marred by the confusion of method and ontology, i.e., what physicists may say of reality vs. the infinitely larger domain of what we may know of it. And when they speculate, it is almost always in a worthless, new-age sort of way, i.e., "you create reality." As always, the real Secret is that the Secret protects itself from such debased and deepaked bozos and hucksters -- and from trolls, by the way.

It's a cliche, but truly, to study ontology -- the nature of being -- with the scientific method is very much like undertaking a study of Shakespeare by analyzing the chemical properties of the ink and paper with which he wrote his plays. Here we can understand how method very much determines the content of what we see.

One is very aware of this in the field of psychology, since there are so many competing theories that attempt to map the mind. This is something I noticed very early on in graduate school, and it essentially leaves one with only three options. One, you can pick one particular theoretical orientation -- which is somewhat analogous to converting to a particular religion -- and essentially become a devotee (which I am not necessarily criticizing, BTW). Two, you can become a cynic and say that meaning is just arbitrary, and that we simply superimpose fanciful models on the mind that have no more substance than drawing lines in the ocean.

Or, you can attempt to make all of the theories make sense in light of a greater whole that contains many more dimensions than three or four. This was my approach, and in fact, I laid it out in my first scholarly publication back in 1991 (based on part of my doctoral dissertation) -- back when I was trying to be a scholar instead of whatever it is I am now.

In fact, even the course of my subsequent life reflects the reality I was attempting to convey in that first paper, in that I found that I could not possibly devote myself to one discipline (let alone, one school of psychology) in such a way that it could adequately coontain the Gagdad spirit. Or, that would have been the problem, precisely. I would have had to literally I-amputate significant parts of myself in order to fit into this or that narrow discipline.

Thus, if my critics want to say that I am an undisciplined non-scholar, I have no objection. That's sort of the point. As brother Blake once cracked, "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's." I would much prefer to simply have a creative and "upwardly spiraling" engagement with O than to internalize someone else's (K) about it, (K) that always has an expiration date -- unless it is grounded in revelation.

This is why, for example, Christopher Hitchens' latest work of (K) that attempts to contain O will soon disappear like an old People Magazine that the janitors take home at night, while human beings will still be trying to decode the Bible in 1,000 or 10,000 years. Or, if they are not, then it will mean that the Human Being did not survive in a recognousable form -- perhaps bodily, but not spiritually.

After all, it is not less bizarre that revelation should be treasured in 10,000 years than it is treasured today. For someone who has already abdicated his humanness -- his specifically human spirit and human way of engaging O -- he is already mystified as to why anyone would take religion seriously. Of all the miracles associated with Jesus, none is more miraculous than the following: that this gospel will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations. What a completely bizarre, even unsane, thing to suggest! After all, not only did Jesus write nothing down, but he died an anonymous peasant at a time when most men were slaves and the means of transmitting official knowledge was vouchsafed to a chosen few. But then, for this "prediction" to actually come to pass.... mind-boggling.

This is a mystery that is insufficiently appreciated. The secular scholar is at a loss to explain it. Or, like the physicist, he is limited by the "miner's helmet" he uses to examine the evidence. Therefore, since there can by definition be no objective truth to either the ideas of Jesus or the Idea of Jesus, the scholar must essentially rely upon a pathological model of mankind.

In other words, human beings must essentially be crazy for such ideas to spread like wildfire. But as Schuon pointed out on a number of occasions, if human beings are so fundamentally crazy or stupid that even their greatest minds of the past could not tell the difference between fantasy and reality, then there is no compelling reason to believe that human beings should now be so wise that they can accurately pronounce on the nature of reality. In short, they would still be too stupid and crazy.

The most efficient way to dismiss my views is to simply say, that Coon is crazy -- which, of course, has been said of those far greater than I. In fact, reader Zi gave voice to this view just the other day: whatever I write, it is simply "Bob's pathology, and he should not suggest that others share it.... Bob worships his own psychopathology, which is fine, but just don't pretend that others should."

I am loathe to offer an invitation to a troll, but perhaps Zi could flesh this idea out a bit, i.e., define exactly what he means by "pathology," and explain why anyone would be motivated to "worship" it. Perhaps he doesn't realize it, but my book does give an account of how and why this can and does happen. But it does not prove that there is not an object worthy of worship, any more than a pervert who likes having sex with shoes proves that coonjugal love is pathological.

Now, where was I. Yes, the idea that we are human beings and that there is a realm of knowledge that is specifically applicable to that privileged station. In other words, we are not merely matter, so that no theory of physics can account for us or speak to our true inner nature. Nor can any theory of biology, including natural selection -- regardless of its undoubted truth in its own domain -- account for, or speak to, the human Center.

No. Only spiritual truths of one form or another speak to this human center. No one really argues otherwise, only over the ontological status of the truths and the part of us to which these deeper truths are intelligible. To cite just one obvious example, you will often notice that for the secularized person, they become preoccupied with culture in general and "art" in particular. It is a banality to point out that some time ago, the museum became the new church for secularized sophisticates.

But unless art is rooted in transcendent reality, it will eventually become -- as we have seen -- a monstrosity. In accordance with the Fall, it will simply "slide downhill" 32 feet per second per second, toward something that is less than man, properly so-called. Here is a fine example, linked to Drudge the other day. Remember, this is Art:


Hmm, sorry about that. Not exactly Madonna With Child, but definitely Child of Madonna. You will notice that it doesn't even really show anything, and yet, it is nevertheless pornographic.

As it so happens, as I have mentioned before, my father-in-law is a vociferous anti-theist in the manner of Christopher Hitchens. However, it is also possible that he is the most cultured man I know. Having lived most of his life in Manhattan, when he retired to Florida, he found the absence of culture intolerable, so he did something about it. He founded the Sarasota Film Society in order to bring quality films and various artistic events to the area. If I am not mistaken, it grew into the most successful venture of its kind in the entire country.

I have always been struck by the inherent contradiction of loving and needing transcendence -- i.e., art -- while denying its possibility. If there is such a thing as "quality" art, where does this quality reside? Merely in good technical execution, as my father-in-law has argued when pressed? Or merely in telling an entertaining story? I once told him that if he were truly what he thinks he is, then he would simply run porno films and not be concerned with this fanciful thing called "art."

But whether he likes the idea or not -- and he doesn't -- he is an irreducibly spiritual man with spiritual needs. These needs cannot be reduced to anything else, e.g., Darwinian "sexual selection," which essentially promulgates the theory that the real reason for art is to get chicks. Yes, there is an undeniable element of truth to this, but to suggest that this is the "whole truth" is patently absurd. I don't really care if Van Morrison wrote Astral Weeks to impress Janet Planet. I only care that his music was central in speaking to and even "awakening" a dormant part of myself -- an explicitly spiritual part (although the word "part" is misleading).

Now, back to scripture and revelation, which is either a result of pathology or an elaborate way to get chicks. Or, it is a theurgent memorandum from ourSelf to ourself, designed for that purpose. To be continued.

61 Comments:

Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Thus, if my critics want to say that I am an undisciplined non-scholar, I have no objection. That's sort of the point. As brother Blake once cracked, "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's." I would much prefer to simply have a creative and "upwardly spiraling" engagement with O than to internalize someone else's (K) about it, (K) that always has an expiration date -- unless it is grounded in revelation."

I like how you said that, B'ob.
Some (k)'s not only expire, they self-destruct.

I much prefer the creative and upward spiralling engagement with O.

5/14/2007 08:39:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

In the absence of a living connection to the Creative Divine, we crave the illusion of our own creativity. "Art" unmoored from value becomes exceedingly unpleasant to experience for both soul and senses. Fleeing into beauty is no solution.

The purpose of art (a phrase that would make the standard academic art professor choke [a feature not a bug]) is to refresh and delight and arrest us by the skillful evocation of the mysteries of our life. I remember my staggering shock when it occurred to me there will be no art in a true heaven, when we see face to Face, when that which is Perfect is come. It's provisional, like everything else about our lives, not to be deceived by the frisson or its aptitude in impressing chicks of any sex or age.

The indispensable Spengler ties some of this together:

Admit it - you really hate modern art

Why you pretend to like modern art
You pretend to like modern art because you want to be creative. You aren't.


Cherry blossoms, the beautiful and the good
It is quite possible for evil men to appreciate beauty, and not just the beauty of nature. (No aspersions on your father-in-law, I've become quite fond of him from a distance.)

5/14/2007 08:42:00 AM  
Anonymous garg oil said...

There's nothing wrong with being an undisciplined non-scholar as long as you don't pose as a scholar. That was the gist of the charge,as I recall. Posing. Bluffing. Buffooning. Puffery. Preening. There's the beef.

5/14/2007 08:53:00 AM  
Anonymous fem sexpert said...

I didn't really understand what was wrong with the art piece you presented in your post, probably because I couldn't make out the content too well.

I thought maybe I saw an old woman's pudenda but I could be wrong. Next to her was a young girl. I guess the implications is that these two were about to engage in some eroticism.

This kind of action is called "old mom and girl" in internet porn jargon. It represents the transfer of feminine power between generations. Men find it threatening, yet sexy.

5/14/2007 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Flem expert-
Of course, I'm not as "cultured" as you are (not even close), but
I thought it was a venus fly trap.

5/14/2007 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

So much temptation to shred arguments of trolls -- Help! everyone! Circle the T-bashersAnon support group whilst we whistle past the heaving graveyards of joy.

5/14/2007 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

LOLOLOL!
Sorry, Bob. I was trying to picture you "Posing. Bluffing. Buffooning. Puffery. Preening!"
I can't wrap my mind around that.
I don't even want to wrap my mind around that!

5/14/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Irrelevancy reaches new heights.

Every day.

Why is that?

It's like war deaths. They just keep piling up.

'Grim Milestone' after 'Grim Milestone'.

---

Man...

"while human beings will still be trying to decode the Bible in 1,000 or 10,000 years."

This makes me want to carve some revelation on doors, or something. Maybe to make up for Jim Morrison...

BTW, I'm going to look into that Paleo-Orthodoxy a little more.. wikipedia's entry says precious little; of course, if it is like my own local church's theology there is little to say except, "Start with P. 1 of a bible. Read from there. Thanks!"

Plus, an key infusion of Origen, Polycarp, et al? Who could ask for more.

5/14/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Sorry, Dilys.
I blame it on the ADD/OCD thing.
I guess I'm a victim...:^)

5/14/2007 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Chloe Cumming said...

'These needs cannot be reduced to anything else, e.g., Darwinian "sexual selection," which essentially promulgates the theory that the real reason for art is to get chicks. Yes, there is an undeniable element of truth to this, but to suggest that this is the "whole truth" is patently absurd. I don't really care if Van Morrison wrote Astral Weeks to impress Janet Planet. I only care that his music was central in speaking to and even "awakening" a dormant part of myself -- an explicitly spiritual part (although the word "part" is misleading).'


'Art world art' is a monstrosity. It is hard to think of a better word. There's so much transparent emptiness it barely seems worth pointing out, or engaging with. It's the last place I want to be, except that I want to paint for a living. Perhaps the reason I haven't dared to say these things is that if I stay true to where good art comes from and what it's for, I'll be discounting almost all of my peers. But I already know it doesn't have to be quite that bleak. Privately discerning somethings from nothings feels quite clean and shiny, for a start.

I had a similar experience with Astral Weeks when I was eighteen and I'd just lost the hearing in one ear... body packing up slowly but surely... It was music that gave me well-timed intelligible hint that there was 'something', something spiritual that was real and 'part' of me. Though it was more definite than a hint, but wordless and it took me a long time to articulate it or to grow it. Astral Weeks made me feel distant from 'myself', which was a big relief, because I was a silly sausage.

I'm still a little nervous about commenting here, but I can't ignore the strong sense of relief (I keep using that word) I feel at having found your thoughts. They seem just the ticket.

I kept modifying this comment and then having errors when I tried to post it. So this might not be the best version. I've probably vaporised the best word.

5/14/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger juliec said...

Dilys, thanks for the links! I don't think I've ever read Spengler before, but he has some brilliant insights.

Fem, that's an interesting and hilarious interpretation of the artwork Bob posted. Thanks!

5/14/2007 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger juliec said...

Chloe,
"'Art world art' is a monstrosity."

I totally agree, which is part of why I've never had a strong drive to really break into it either. I think the key these days is to go around the art world, for example the way you've done with eBay.

I know what you mean about revisions, by the way - I do the same thing :)

5/14/2007 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous walt said...

Chloe said,

"Privately discerning somethings from nothings feels quite clean and shiny, for a start."

Clean-and-shiny is a good thing.

5/14/2007 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Bob,

If there is such a thing as "quality" art, where does this quality reside?

This is a profound and most interesting question (which I have very little prospect of addressing intelligently!).

One of the things I remember, in only a very vague way, about Robert Pirsig's Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance (which I read last in the late seventies) was that he had a most interesting discussion of this matter of quality, and discerning quality, not just with respect to art, but more generally.

I have to go back and look at that again.

Jamie Irons

5/14/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

Light Is Glimming In the West
man with clear vision
past unto the future world
he sees what he saw

----------------------
An aside:
There are few things more daunting that trying to catch up on 4 days of Gagdad et al all at once. Good thing I have the day off...

5/14/2007 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Self control... aauuUUMMmmm...
"Pffffttt!" ..."pflb..."
...aauuUUMMmmm...
"Pffffttt!" "Pffffttt!" "Pffffttt!"


wv:thfpph - yes, that might work too.

5/14/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Van -

Practice makes Ppp - erffff - ecttt!

5/14/2007 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"If there is such a thing as "quality" art, where does this quality reside?"

My fondness for integration (in a completely non-colorcoded way), makes me think that, at least the mechanics of it, has to do with how Art portrays our, for want of a better word at the moment, 'Values' in action, selectively highlighted and reinforced with the harmony of composition, symmetry and Beauty.

The Artwork 'plucks' our web of associated mental, conceptual, and spiritual integrations - the more or more significant the Web which is successfully plucked, the higher the Quality.

I don't think it makes too much difference whether the Art is Visual, Auditory or Literary, other than the immediacy the medium gives to our sense/conceptual system.

Jamie Irons, I believe the entire 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' is available online. I haven't read it in many moons, but did happen across the site once and poked around. I think the site people call it the 'philosophy of quality' or something like that.

Chloe, I was hoping this post would draw you out - would be curious to hear how you view the 'Quality' & purpose question?

"I kept modifying this comment and then having errors when I tried to post it. So this might not be the best version. I've probably vaporised the best word."

Welcome to the wonderful world of WordVerif!

;-)

5/14/2007 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

walt said "Van - Practice makes Ppp - erffff - ecttt! "

;-)

I'm thinking after my semi-annual full nights sleep, It'll flow out more smoothly.

5/14/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Dilys, btw, thanks for the 'Circle the T-bashersAnon support group', that helped.

5/14/2007 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Read Spengler. Good stuff. Thing we ought to keep in mind - few to none of us are or ever will be Great Men and Women - and if we are we should only care or be aware of it as far as we are able to retain the virtue with the knowledge of its presence - but this aside, despite our lack-of-greatness the things we are capable of is astounding!

And this is a great lie of the 20th century: You do not need to be a unique, bright and shining star to achieve the amazing. For at the very least to give birth to a child is amazing; and every human may take part. Those who cannot do other amazing things; the crippled who are stronger and more active than the whole; the autistic who function as normal humans and use their autistic minds to solve certain problems more quickly; and so on.

It isn't amazing to stay out of jail, not neglect your kids, get up in the morning, or drive a car, (well, is it?) but when Bach said that anyone who worked as hard as him could achieve what he did, he was right.

Why do I disagree with Spengler?

Because Bach wasn't talking about his 'genius' - or the number of talents he was given or the impact his work would have on music for all time. For he had a different perspective than the observer does.

He was talking about the extra-ordinary things that he did all the time; play complex fugues, write music for church, raise 12 children, and Love God with all of his heart.

Because I don't think it mattered to Bach whether he'd be remembered in 200 years. Or that he revolutionized music.

Work Hard and Slack Harder (or Softer?) mah Coons.

5/14/2007 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Chloe Cumming said...

Gosh! It's quite intense actually engaging with these conversations... in a good way! Like intense phthalocyanine blue.

Good stuff, Dilys. It seems that it doesn't take that long to describe what art is for. Conversely a crippling web of words is spilled by directionless clever people who will never see it. A blinding quantity of fruitless cleverness... And thank you also for your gentle edifying proddings on my blog re 'pomposity', assuming you are the same Dilys.

Julie... yes, I have increasing evidence that there are ways around that art world. The internet is a crucial tool it seems, for making it be about good will and like minds as opposed to exploitation and posing and clawing and Damien Hirst.

Van, I think other people today have already got closer to the quality and purpose answers than I am capable of. I suppose my concerns are quite practical... working primarily in paint and not words... my task is synthesizing and making these things join up and take form, in the fleshiest oiliest sense.

I think what I hinted at last time about the ARC people might be relevant... they have been competent at describing the things that are wrong about prevailing artworld dogmas. And that is a very good thing. But I can't quite get on board with their solutions... they advocate a return to the French Academy system. Which sort of takes us back to the thing that Delacroix found stifling, and that doesn't seem quite right. In fact I don't think there can be anything wrong with learning in this structured and disciplined way, without a grounding in technique you don't even have the option of going off in a huff and becoming Delacroix. It's not that...it's more a dimension that's missing from their thought... perhaps it's the mundanity... or horizontality of their excessive focus on technique that bothers me.

When really, it's much more about spiritual experience, and God, both the problem and the solution. But articulating that, and integrating it solidly with important 'merely technical' teaching... well, it's not something I've seen anyone do lately. And then there's the problem of the kitschmystical new agey stuff that fakes it.

How do you teach people to be 'receptive' in that way, but also to have an uncompromising work ethic and focus on craft? How to make the argument that the two things go hand in hand?

It's all so much more self-evident in music...

When I said they weren't 'where it's at' the other day, I didn't mean that I'm where it's at... the closest I've really come to... (what's that word that gets used here?)... metabolizing... where it's at, has been looking directly at Rembrandts in the National Gallery and knowing I had a duty to do something good with that experience. Even having located roughly where it's at, making all this culminate in the right paintings has been jolly tricky. But perhaps it is partly a confidence issue. And I would think that this forum will be a source of confidence.

Brian Wilson said 'I was a flute and God played me'. In reference to what he achieved in the mid sixties. That seems to have lodged in my brain.

I have to get back to drawing now! it's early evening in England. I can see honeysuckle.

5/14/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

That art reflects what is in a man (or woman's) soul causes it to be as beautiful or ugly as the soul who created it.

As a teenager, I used to think Simon and Garfunkle were brilliant poets who sang songs of deep meaning. By the time I was in my 20s I found their work's "deep meaning" to be nothing but emptiness and despair. My soul had been filled and the meaning to their songs had changed in the process. They were empty songs portraying their (apparently) empty souls.

I girl in a church youth group I lead was a very talented artist (drawing and paint) but her skill was held back by her art teacher who told her that "Art that portrays anything but the void (the teacher's term for inner emptiness) can no longer honestly be called art." Because she wasn't empty on the inside she couldn't create "meaningful" art.

5/14/2007 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Chloe: I was this close to going into art, but I went into computers instead. I took 12th grade studio, but there was no inspiration - higher or otherwise - to really go on with the craft. I still retain the ability to describe what I see on paper more or less, and to articulate what's in my head in a visual form, but I never had enough teaching in technique to go much further. I wanted to take art in college but my University required a portfolio to take anything BUT art history. I may have dodged a bullet I guess, but I always wanted to take figure drawing and more painting courses.

In retrospect I don't regret it, since I've found that I DO have time to pursue these things in my adult life, and I'm not stuck still in college trying to figure out what I want to do. If there is any regret I have it is that I would have rather been an artist and musician by trade rather than a computer scientist.

Anyhow, I suspect that Visual Art, like music, is a form of communication, and virtue applied to those media draws them ever closer to rendition of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

Knowledge of the archetypes and the sophia perennis would no doubt deepen and enhance any artistic endeavor.

5/14/2007 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

"It's not that...it's more a dimension that's missing from their thought... perhaps it's the mundanity... or horizontality of their excessive focus on technique that bothers me."

I know what you mean. They have a delightful library, but as far as the more modern stuff there is a rigidity about what is acceptable. Only photorealists who don't work from photos need apply, is the impression I have. Technique and structure are very important, but at some point you have to be able to use those as a foundation for something that surpasses mere structure.

Photorealism can be wonderful, but there is so much that photos miss (which is why Photoshop was invented), and it seems that sticking only to the surface reality, while an admirable skill, keeps one from seeing with that third I and bringing forth the deeper truth. In a way, it's like saying that in music true spirituality can only be found in classical works written for the Church, an idea that is patently wrong.

5/14/2007 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous dilys said...

Art's deeper truths: babe magnet's babe sings the blues...

5/14/2007 01:22:00 PM  
Anonymous PSGInfinity said...

Shoprat,

"By the time I was in my 20s I found their work's "deep meaning" to be nothing but emptiness and despair."

May I second that innotion? I find myself listening to 'The Boxer' and 'Sounds of Silence' when I feel like indulging my inner emptyness.

Thank you, so much, for putting that into words...

5/14/2007 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Chloe Cumming said...

I am overtired now, so forgive my clumsiness, but...

Julie: Yes, the ARC words may be nice but the proof of the pudding is in the paintings. I don't see much that 'refereshes, delights or arrests' me in those photorealist not photo realist soft focus paintings. Therefore what they're preaching isn't hitting the mark. Also, they may be doing the broader cultural battle a disservice with their tangible squareness & uptightness. I know those might seem funny words to choose, but... there's certainly very little space for humour in there!

5/14/2007 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Chloe Cumming said...

River: I like it when you talk about virtue. I've got more to learn about this than to say, I'm sure. I'm very fortunate that I've been supported and enabled to paint, but it makes me a paint-saturated blinkered paint geek at times. Your route sounds.. cleaner and shinier, to me.

5/14/2007 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Chloe,
Actual instructions on 'Art Technique' is way beyond my pay-grade in Art, and I haven't bothered reading those at ARC, or I've skipped through those sections. My interest is more in the philosophical, and in that area, for me, Picaso = worthless filth, Tadema (I think either one) or Godward = The Heights.

The 'Photo-Realist' style in and of itself, doesn't get me going any further than an admiration for skill. What it takes is the sense of 'ART'... and, well, that's the difficulty here, but I agree that finding it in them is rare (I mostly stick to the older stuff in their museum).

My own experience of art, tends to show me that what I can put into 'rules' for 'Art', falls far short of what must be true. For example, the rule would be "Art must illustrate virtous scenes, be they heroic or domestic instances of virtue in action, in order to inspire, embody or instruct..." yada, yada, yada. Sounds great to me. But then I can be walking along minding my own business, catch sight of a Van Gogh (most of the others of his type leave me flat), and be stopped in my tracks. To an extent, I find that Dali can be mesmerizing/satisfying as well.

Now I'm sure I could torture the limits of definition, and claim that Van Gogh's Cypress's for instance, 'find the essential cast of Virtue in their form, their structure in relation to the background, bringing Virtue to life, even while lacking clear borders and form...' but my B.S. meter pegs on me - could easily create a pre-pomomfo generator to crank lines like that out which would be equally meaningless - even destructive to meaning. Clearly not the point of Art.

So I'm missing something there. It seams to me that Art should show the Beautiful, the Good and the True, but what rules apply (?!) in carrying that out - I haven't a clue, and 'Should' makes me wary also, too often 'Should' is applied by those who don't have it, to restrict those who do.

So... still looking

5/14/2007 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Shoprat said "...held back by her art teacher who told her that "Art that portrays anything but the void (the teacher's term for inner emptiness) can no longer honestly be called art.""

I may not be able to define a Good Art teacher, but I sure know which ones I'd like to punch in the nose.

5/14/2007 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Biker Lady said...

"Thus, if my critics want to say that I am an undisciplined non-scholar, I have no objection. That's sort of the point. As brother Blake once cracked, "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's." I would much prefer to simply have a creative and "upwardly spiraling" engagement with O than to internalize someone else's (K) about it, (K) that always has an expiration date -- unless it is grounded in revelation."

This is the problem of life as I see it. Escaping the box - staying out of the box of other people's mind parasites.

As soon as you show an interest in "anything" (especially religion) people want to lock you into a fixed program that everyone approves for whatever they think is best. There goes the joy of learning.

This appears to be a constant trial for coonindividuals but possibly it's God's version of trial and error and He's expecting us to throw a cooniptsion fit and tell those conviving parasites who want to ruin our joy - to go to hell!

In regards to our spiritual life and becoming what we are supposed to be - "To be or not to be" - we will need to have some good answers ready for The Lord in case we let the whiners win.
Some of need to stay in a conventional religious community life, which is probally the best when one has small children. As we grow and learn and listen that might change or it might not. We are all different and our needs are different.
Some of us see the need to get quiet and search on our own as time goes on. I liken this to Bob's "slack time". It's not a period of doing nothing but a period of absorbing what will make you what you are called to be.
I thank God for my "slack time".

Thank you Bob, for putting into words everyday the truths we can ponder and use to eject the mind parasites!

5/14/2007 03:00:00 PM  
Anonymous dloye said...

Thanks for the links dilys. I'm trying to move away from the gleeful ahha, on first reading! Great fun.

WV: dlofres right... randomness rules. Type on oh million monkeys!

5/14/2007 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous gauca mole said...

Be aware that the NAS (North American Shamans, a submerged group with ties to Mecha and to Yukon Freedom)
wants to shut One Cosmos Down.

Specifically, said the chairman, "do an Imus on them" meaning that their specially trained e-agitators will try to make raccoons say the equivalent of "nappy headed hos."

DON'T be misled into saying anything inflammatory or slangy against:

gays
women
children
people of color

The minute you do the NAS media machine will begin a character assination of Bob and his readers, with the object of getting Blogger to stop hosting the site.

There must be an informant amongst you, because the NAS seems to know everything--

your philosphy
the secret coon handsign
who petey and dupree are

I'm in real deep with them but its only a matter of time before they smoke me out. In the meantime, make use of this info.

5/14/2007 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"There must be an informant amongst you, because the NAS seems to know everything"

Yeah, how else to get to that highly double secret probation worthy classified info?

(oops)
I mean "Pffffttt!" "Pffffttt!" "Pffffttt!"

wordverif attempts to redeem itself:
wv:dumwss

5/14/2007 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

I deny everything I've ever said about gays, women, children, and people of color. What I meant to say was,

"Phffffttt!"

5/14/2007 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Dilys has all the really cool links. Just.Awesome.Stuff!

I was just today asked why I quit the art co-op in this small, liberal arts college town.
"Because of the whining," was my reply. So many whiny artists; victims of "the man" and "sofa art."

Everybody supposedly loved the audacity of these artists, but nobody wanted it hanging in their living room.

My work sold well enough, but the "art community" is bat-crazy. It was my first foray into the Dark Night of the Creative Soul. Brrr!

5/14/2007 04:29:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>>I have always been struck by the inherent contradiction of loving and needing transcendence -- i.e., art -- while denying its possibility<<

Caveat - what I say here is in no way a judgment of Bob's father-in-law who I obviously do not know and thus whose character I can't validly assess. Obviously there are good and decent people with a spiritual inclination that they would not, for a variety of cultural, sociological factors, label as such.

Can say this, however - some of the worst people I've ever known were highly "cultured", including one who was consciously and with great refinement dedicated to evil.

Such people are "real" enough to have actually created something of their own exaggerated collective archetype for public consumption: Hannibal Lector, Dr. Evil (white gloves, cat, etc.), and just about every antagonist/guilty party to appear on the Columbo tv series. The list goes on.

But as exaggerated as the archetype may be, these people I have encountered have been seriously dead at the core. I have doubts as to whether they "love" the transcendence transmitted through art, or if they even recognize it. They may "need" transcendence and be moth-to-the flame attracted to it without understanding why - this in the manner of the darkness' eternal attraction to the Light.

I suspect that these people ultimately feast on the pure sensual aesthetics that art and culture have to offer. They would, in fact, feast on aesthetics even more vigorously than would the committed spiritual pilgrim simply because they need something to fill the vacuum. The irony, of course, is that were they to reach the endpoint of their spirit-less aim, they would destroy all order and symmetry, the framework of aesthetics.

5/14/2007 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

I suspect that these people ultimately feast on the pure sensual aesthetics that art and culture have to offer.

I nearly wrote of my co-op'ers as a certain sort of "energy vampires" for it seemed their needs were endless and they simply sucked all the real joy and life out of art.

5/14/2007 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gays
women
children
people of color


NUKE A NINE-YEAR-OLD BLACK LESBIAN FOR JESUS

5/14/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Dilys, those articles were really good.

I've been looking at Grecian ruins online and even in their ruined state, they are breathtaking. I wish I knew how to link here in comments, but I don't know the HTML.

http://www.losttrails.com/pages/Hproject/Argos/Argos01-00.html

http://www.losttrails.com/pages/Hproject/hProjectxx.html

http://www.losttrails.com/pages/Hproject/hProjectxx.html

There's much, much more at the site. I don't know anything about art, but I wish I could have seen these in their prime.

"Men find it threatening, yet sexy."

I think most normal people find it gross. Kind of like the cheez whiz(TM) house or the alphabet formed out of cr*p by that "chocolate Jesus" dude.

5/14/2007 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Bob, you wrote about yourself today, "I found that I could not possibly devote myself to one discipline (let alone, one school of psychology) in such a way that it could adequately coontain the Gagdad spirit."

And of course your writing is absorbed by Coons that are very different, and practicing various disciplines as well. By describing O from multiple angles, even within one post (like today's), I never get the "error" of mis-taking the aspect for the Whole. So the approach you are using becomes like a rudder for us, so we can keep heading up-stream in our own ways.

Also: it would have been really easy to wrap this post up with something ONLY clever. But the parting thought was, "...scripture and revelation...is a theurgent memorandum from ourSelf to ourself, designed for that purpose." The key words of that statement run deep.

Thanks, once again.

5/14/2007 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Bookish things -

A couple of months ago, one of the Coons mentioned reading Lost Christianity, by Jacob Needleman, and while I had read it 20 years ago, picked up a new copy. Once again, this blog really helped me understand it in a new way. Lots of useful distinctions in there.

Bob, I have been hesitant to tackle Vladamir Lossky's book, and wondered whether it was one you'd suggest, and I got the answer on your sidebar.

But there was a 4-volume set by Bernard McGinn on the History of Christian Mysticism, as I recall; you had it on your sidebar last January (?) and we almost bought it, and then you removed it. Do you still recommend it, or was there something that caused you to remove it so quickly?

5/14/2007 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Walt:

The McGinn is very scholarly theology, whereas the Lossky is very mystical theology. Basic East-West distinction. Lossky is more challenging, since he's coming from a place beyond thought, whereas McGinn is using thought to ascend to the beyond-thought. In a sense, K-->O vs. O-->K.

5/14/2007 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

By the way, I would definitely recommend reading the Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware before tackling Lossky. A wonderful book.

5/14/2007 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

">>I have always been struck by the inherent contradiction of loving and needing transcendence -- i.e., art -- while denying its possibility<<"

Everybody needs that whole worldview picture, and no one has it, but each imagines it whole, which leads to the paradox of zeno's forever crossing a room, and others seeing a whole through never more than small fragments.

Zeno's approach iswhere they spin one observation and extend it with assumptions, each of which fits neatly upon the last, one after andother and another, until reaching a conclusion which is absurd but 'logical' (in appearance only - big surprise).
I'm reminded of Zeno's paradoxes, and those who are taken with them. He would propose that in walking to cross a room you would halve the distance in a certain number of steps, correct? sure. Which would leave less room to cross, right? uh-huh, Then you halve the remaining distance, correct? ok. Then halve the remaining distance? sure... each time the distance shrinks, and you are still halving the distance? yeah...So, in halving the distance, there will always be some distance remaining, no matter how tiny, that remains to be halved, and so as you attempt to cross the room, you will forever be trapped in halving the remaining distance, thus never reaching the other side of the room!
Oh MY!

This group paints their image of the world, from one image to the next, brooking no gaps, refusing to entertain the possibility that there could be a sequence missing. The image they build and construct, they assume that there must be a full picture, and that it will follow from their assumptions, and if that picture is stunted and deformed, it is of no real concern to them - they have a full picture - and they are trapped and bound by their word picture paradox.

The second group senses that there is a whole picture, is frustrated by their gaps in understanding, but taking pleasure in what they do see, have no difficulty concluding that what they don't see, will be filled in, with or without their awareness. Somewhat as if a patchy but thick fog were to roll in, obscuring sections of a cathedral from view. The viewer may see the entrance doors, perhaps stain glass above, sections of the soaring structure arching upwards, the bell tower... and though there are large sections missing from view, they trust the picture they have is complete, though they do not know the details.

This is what I see as legitimate faith. The structure seen is sound. It is orderly, it flows, because I don't see it complete does not fill me with anxiety over the missing gaps, as if, if I don't know their every detail, they can not exist, or that I somehow can not trust that they exist.

The first see's a 'complete' structure, twisted and deformed into completeness, but with no gaps!, and because there are no gaps, they proclaim it superior to those with vast gaps in their world picture.

The second glimpses pieces of the whole, understands that they are parts of a whole, and 'trusts' that the structure exists, is whole, continues in flowing grace and beauty to a completness guessed at, but not seen. This person is inspired by what they do see, and trusts that the complete structure does exist, and is absolutely baffled at the other's satisfaction with their grotesque but gapless figuration.

5/14/2007 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

(Beer o'clock came a little late tonight)

5/14/2007 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

River,

but when Bach said that anyone who worked as hard as him could achieve what he did, he was right.

I doubt Bach said that. I think he believed in grace. But if you can provide an authoritative reference I'll offer that he was a humble man and still didn't believe that.

5/14/2007 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

anony: I'm simply referring to Spengler's article. If you want to read both of them you can take him to the task. If Bach did indeed say that, I can understand where he is coming from in some way having been a working musician for a time.

When you truly work the craft you aren't trying for 'Genius' so much as sufficiency, consistency and moments that sparkle every once-in-awhile. Once people hear you play enough they take for granted your skill and style. No less with Bach, no doubt.

And so, Bach, being a working musician was not allowed follies about his genius.

And Schoenberg learned the hard way that people don't want to listen to UGLY.

5/14/2007 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob,
I have always thought that art is 'viosnary' rather than therapeutic. Pound called artists 'the antennae of the race' and there is an element of truth in this. Even Blake was obsessed with depicting his 'vision' and vision is essentially seeing what most people are incapable of comprehending; seeing the forest for the trees.
Good post.

5/14/2007 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

I think that Art is Visionary in that Art (whether it be visual, auditory or literary), is Philosophy (whether that be Religious or systematic), Illustrated.

5/14/2007 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

If you truly want to know what a Philosophy is like, look at the Arts that are derived from it.

Compare John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson with Georges Danton, Jean-Paul Marat, Maximilien Robespierre.

Bach to Schoenberg.

Edmund Rostand to Samuel Beckett.

Alma-Tadema to Jackson Pollock.


That'll give a fine illustration of two very different philosophic systems.

5/14/2007 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chloe Cumming said...

Van, you said:

My own experience of art, tends to show me that what I can put into 'rules' for 'Art', falls far short of what must be true. For example, the rule would be "Art must illustrate virtous scenes, be they heroic or domestic instances of virtue in action, in order to inspire, embody or instruct..." yada, yada, yada. Sounds great to me. But then I can be walking along minding my own business, catch sight of a Van Gogh (most of the others of his type leave me flat), and be stopped in my tracks.

I had some thoughts about all this in the night that are not very complete.

There's nothing wrong with reviving ideas about heroic subjects and nobility and all that stuff. But it seems that in those photorealist 'new masters' paintings, all they are is ideas floating on the surface. At worst, those paintings are just airless mechanical illustrations of those ideas, of those convictions (which is not a million miles away from what conceptual art aims to do... mughf!). And however noble those convictions might be, not much that's virtuous or helpful to human spirits is truly being embodied in those paintings.

Whereas something that we're after has been embodied by Van Gogh. Subject matter becomes a conduit for something. And old crusty paint becomes more than paint! And yes, it's not about 'that type of thing' or expressionism or the Van Gogh myth, it's something present and immediate in the thing itself.

Choice of subject matter is not ultimately the important decision... neither is choice of style or technique, although they are intertwined in a subtle way that MY art teachers were too vulgar to admit. Subtle things were 'boring' at art school. But that's a can of worms.

A painting is a physical thing, and it ought to be completely at ease and in touch with its physicality but simultaneously use that to get beyond. But maybe that's just me.

'Aliveness' is always something that I've aimed for in painting...

I had a silly thought... what would a painting with the qualities of Astral Weeks look like? That ramshackle quality about the music... it might be a little messy, but it would not be ugly. There's a lot to be learned from music about how to inhabit the present in the best way, the eternal present maybe... but interpreting it... it ought to be done right. Parts of you need to be awake. There are so many roads to ugly.

Oh, and I'm not personally all that preoccupied with getting chicks. So perhaps that frees me up for much indulgent pondering.

5/15/2007 01:16:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I honestly believe that Van Gogh had a particular artistic gift. People like that can paint an abstract work and you'll know what they are saying.

Others may have all the skill in the world, but cannot make their work 'click' - to me this is Picasso. Excellent at sketching, early paintings very well done... and then...? I'll give him that quite a few of the works were at least interesting, unlike much of what followed ('installments' for one... talk about a cheap way around rendering something... just set it up!)


Ohhh man, its only a matter of time before a True Art Snob comes in and sets us straight.

Anyhow, perhaps what is wrong with some of the photorealists is that they are not rendering something new, similar to comparing the old church fathers plus the apostles to the new writers of this age - even the ones who are 'biblical'.

It's not photorealism that is shallow but, like Van might've elucidated, the philosophy that they are conveying is not deep enough.

I wish I could get an example -- the difference can be so, so subtle.

This is going to be insufficient, but consider old Mike's choice to render the creation of Man? Not literal to the text but perfect in its visual poetry. A lesser man would have first drawn him breathing into adam and said, "Uh... huh... kind of.. gay..." Then drawn him breathing on him from a distance... and the symbolism wouldn't have worked.

Interestingly, I think music has fared far better, probably for the reasons Spengler talked about, you just simply can't get away with Real Crap (tm) as easily.

But to render the modern world, through the eyes of man, to have a heart for the beauty of the modern things? And not think them ugly? That is what it would take.

5/15/2007 03:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Music has fared better? How do you account for the lionization of John Adams and his bullcorn minimalism?

I say it has fared no better. And please don't cite pop music as an alternative.

5/15/2007 05:21:00 AM  
Blogger MizzE said...

Gazings Balls
-o.o-
cricket chirped all night
fans are cheap imitators
buy no substitutes

-o.o-

5/15/2007 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Chloe Cumming said " There's a lot to be learned from music about how to inhabit the present in the best way, the eternal present maybe... but interpreting it... it ought to be done right. Parts of you need to be awake. There are so many roads to ugly."

Probably much to that. Music, apart from needing to use valid harmonic scales, is unbound to anything other than what the composer chooses to hear. One difficulty that Visual and even Literary Art's have, is that they have many more constraints - there are definite things they need to look or seem like, need to resemble in order to extend.

River Cocytus said "It's not photorealism that is shallow but, like Van might've elucidated, the philosophy that they are conveying is not deep enough." and also "But to render the modern world, through the eyes of man, to have a heart for the beauty of the modern things? And not think them ugly? That is what it would take. "

I think those are probably the key points, more than any other. A photographer can take pictures of buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright... or of concrete walls and garbage dumps. The photo-realistic quality of the pictures isn't going to save them. A huge weight is going to be given to the content of the picture, but even there, there is some additional something that comes from the photographer, that can make even a concrete wall convey something more. Most of the painters today, of whatever school, are lacking in either, and most seem to think that their technique alone can not only make up for, but serve in place of, content and ... what... well, artistic talent. So frustrating when your logic makes that final circular connection! Maybe as Gagdad mentioned last week on religion being the hole in the ceiling (?) to escape the going round and round the room of existence - the spiritual is the only exist from the logics circular loop.

5/15/2007 05:36:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

sigh. 'Exit' not exist.

5/15/2007 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Annonymous said "I say it has fared no better. And please don't cite pop music as an alternative. "

What, Smashing Pumpkins aren't so smashing?

:O

5/15/2007 05:43:00 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

fem sexpert:

The "art" in question is based on a paparazzi photograph of a pantyless Britney Spears indiscretely disembarking from an inebriated Paris Hilton's Ferrari.

Deep, huh?

5/15/2007 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

If I knew who John Adams was or cared, I probably would agree with you.

I was never much for Glass or Cage either, though I think the first had a drop of true gift.

I consider that after Impressionism -> Stravinsky, 'art music' became more or less its own world; not terribly profitable (unlike the visual art world) and thus DID NOT fare as well. For the economic test is the real one I think, and I recall my fugues teacher groaning about how musicians just couldn't get enough grants here in the USA, if we'd only do it like they do in Europe...

Jazz and its seed are just too.. groovy, funky, freaky and sweet for any tin-pan minimalism to compete.

That's what I mean. Dunno what you're talking about :)

5/15/2007 07:18:00 AM  

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