MUSIC IN PHASE SPACE EPISODE 2
“Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted”
― William S. Burroughs
Beauty can be tolerated only if complicated by discord, shock, violence, and harsh terrestrial realities. I feel justified in speaking of the repression of beauty. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed. Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve.
The disguised moralism that beauty is “good for you,” in fact, is good itself, has turned an entire century against anything to do with beauty, classic and romantic, and have banned beauty from painting, music, architecture, and poetry, as well as criticism. The arts, whose task it was once thought to be to manifest the real is being what others would want it to be, rather than being itself.
Throughout most of this century, discussions of beauty have been tainted by fascist appropriation of a subject that has been too often overlooked by the humanist and existential concern for democratic social improvement. The trads occupied fields vacated by the Left has turned Beauty into the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex and the whole colossal fraud of American intervention.
My goal is to regain some of the lost mythological ground (to a small degree) as well as those others have attempted, on previous occasions. We all live within aesthetic ideals in some way. Beauty without symbolic depth results in ornament. Only when the two meet can we speak of art. Symbols are powerful because they are the visible signs of invisible realities.
We speak of beauty as “timeless,” he says, not because they belong to no time, but because they are perpetually timely; their relevance never wanes, and each generation, each percipient, must interpret them anew. Don’t confuse the teacher with the lesson, the ritual with the ecstasy, the transmitter of the symbol with the symbol itself. Beauty is a something that has never finished saying what it has to say. In the light that beauty emanates, things suddenly seem less clear-cut than they used to seem, he writes. “We find ourselves in the presence of something greater than we are, something potentially infinite”
This strange refusal to admit beauty in psychological discourse occurs despite the fact that we all know that nothing affects the soul as much as moments of beauty — in nature, a face, a song, an action, or a dream — and that nothing transports the soul as much as moments of beauty. And we believe that these moments are therapeutic in the truest sense: they awaken us to the value of our souls.
The repressed is not what we usually think of: violence, misogyny, sexuality, childhood, emotions and feelings, or even the spirit. If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bambozeled. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back,
Beauty has nothing to do with aesthetic sophistication. They use the aesthetic as a springboard to something else. The goal of art is to take us beyond our ordinary preconceptions to reach the heart of the real. The artist must fight to produce works that do not fully conform to the Consensus in order to produce the new. It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to. Seeing’s the only thing that allows you to use your imagination.
The crack in your heart allows light in. Rifts are fissures or caesuras in the body of a work. They can take the form of imperfections, surreal excesses, strange turns of phrase, stylistic flourishes. Hemingway: For a symbol to disclose itself in full, you need the rift. For animistic societies, the artist was the conduit, not the origin, of the work of art, Woolf writes. “What amateurs call an amateur style is usually only the unavoidable awkwardness in first attempts to make something.
For the classic to be the best, “chance and chaos play a part in the process,” Hemingways writes. It means letting chance and chaos be allowed to enter into the work and augment its breadth and power, he adds. The artist is more than a creation: it’s a creature, writes Woolf, and it is the work that imposes the rift on the artist and not the other way around. In To the Lighthouse, there is a rift that makes that book as otherworldly as any science fiction novel. Modern shamans in the Peruvian Amazon collect beautiful medicine songs called icaros. The shamans do not compose these songs; they learn them directly from the forest spirits.
THE ECONOMY OF BEAUTY
Deep ecology’s Gaia hypothesis holds that the world is a living, breathing organism. Gaia’s basic stuff, magma and rocks at the earth’s core, must be imagined organically. Gaia hypothesis reduces the world’s puzzles to interacting functionalism, a modern Darwin. Mother Nature no longer supports us; we are now obligated to look after her. The world of deep ecology is still physis.
Beautification costs too much. It’s uneconomical. Contrary to this usual view, ugliness costs more. What is the cost to physical well-being and psychological balance of careless design, of cheap dyes, of inane sounds, structures, and spaces? What does it cost in absenteeism; in sexual obsession, school drop-out rates, overeating and short attention span? Could the causes of major social, political, and economic issues of our time also be found in the repression of beauty? The price we pay for our inanities is the cost of beauty. Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction.
Narcissism was classically described by Freud as an absence or disturbance of “object libido,” he writes. “The beauty of the world holds no allure, no echo that draws our notice,” he says. The soul of the individual can not be separated and treated apart from the world and its zeitgeist, he argues. “Philosophy seems more cold and callous to the plight of the soul in the shipwreck” than ever before, he adds. In cosmogony, death-of-God theology, chaos theory, postmodern deconstructionism, and physics. Narcissism is a disorder in the realm of beauty, rather than a disorder of individual patients.
We should recognize that narcissists suffer from an addiction problem, just like any addict. The soul of the individual can not be separated and treated apart from the world and its zeitgeist. In cosmogony, speculation about the origin of the cosmos invents big bangs, black holes, and gas storms without a thought about its beauty, he argues. “Philosophy seems more cold and callous to the plight of the soul in the shipwreck of the world than ever before. We are left with fractals and wittily named particles of theoretical physics. The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. Lies don’t end relationships the truth does
Objectivity and Subjectivity
Beauty, according to subjectivists like Hume, is in the eye of the beholder, it is not a question of taste. Subjectivism eventually degenerates into commercialism, where market-price determines taste and substitutes for value. The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth. The concept of beauty has been reduced to conceptual formalisms. A good practice carried to an extreme and worked in accordance with the letter of the law becomes a positive evil. There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion. The sun is the width of a human foot.
The artist is making something exist by observing it, and his hope is that others will also make it exist by ‘creative observation’. A sense of humour is the only divine quality of man, argues author. Plotinus argues that we take ordinary things for granted, preventing the power of their aesthetic smile from shining through. Of course, the artist does reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary. Isn’t that the point of pop art? says author. “We must admit, then, that each particular thing has an unreasoned power… has a share of soul.”
The Classical, Apollonian conception
Capitalism as an art form, an Apollonian fabrication to rival nature. The Greek word kosmos, from which our cosmology and cosmonaut derive, expresses this sense of the world as Aphrodite’s presence. If the cosmos implies beauty, if we live in an aesthetic world, then the aesthetic response is the primary mode of adjustment to the cosmos. The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion, but cosmetics are easier to buy.
Aristotle’s Greece was built on the back of Apollinian ideals of symmetry, harmony, and unity. The Apollonian state required as the guarantor of social stability and security. The god on the cross is a curse on life, a signpost to seek redemption from life. Dionysus cut to pieces is a promise of life: it will be eternally reborn and return again from destruction, he says. The goal is to live with God like composure on the full rush of energy, like Dionysus riding the leopard, without being torn to pieces. The Stoics used kosmo to refer to the anima Mundi, or soul of the world, as opposed to the universe, which has no aesthetic connotations, Plotinus could define “an ugly thing” as “something that has not been entirely mastered by pattern”
Aristotle’s Greece was built on the back of Apollonian ideals of symmetry, harmony, and unity. The Canon was not only a statue deigned to display perfect proportion, but a now-lost treatise on beauty. Edmund Burke said that there are no exact proportions between human body parts that make a person beautiful. To say “beautiful” is to say “desirable,” and man has always wanted to build for the least amount of money and in the most durable manner possible. “Beauty was given the sole function of exalting order” “Aesthetic beauty was used for centuries to divert creators from Dionysious’s visions,”
When Kosmos was translated from Greek to Latin, it became a universe, betraying the Roman penchant for general laws and implying that the entire world revolved around one person (unus-verto). However, kosmos does not refer to an all-encompassing system; rather, it is an aesthetic term that best translates to “fitting order,” or “appropriate, right arrangement,” in which particulars take precedence over universals.
Kosmos is also a moral term; for example, in the Iliad (8:179), kata kosmon (“disordered”) means “shamefully.” Kosmos includes words like “decently,” “honorably,” and “becomingly.” As in our everyday language of craft, where straight, true, right, sound imply both the good and the beautiful, the aesthetic and the moral blend. “Discipline, form, and fashion” are three more connotations. Women’s embellishments, decorations, ornaments, and dress were referred to as kosmos, and the word is also used to describe sweet songs and speech.
Aristotle’s Greece was built on the back of Apollonian ideals of symmetry, harmony, and unity “” The Apollonian state required as the guarantor of social stability and security. The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy. Cosmetics is closer to the original than cosmic, which means “vacant, gaseous, vast.”
Aristotle’s Greece was built on the back of Apollonian ideals of symmetry, harmony, and unity. To say “beautiful” is to say “desirable,” and man has always wanted to build for the least amount of money. Edmund Burke said that there are no exact proportions between human body parts that make a person beautiful. The Canon was not only a statue deigned to display perfect proportion, but a now-lost treatise on beauty. “Beauty was given the sole function of exalting order” “Aesthetic beauty was used for centuries to divert creators from Dionysious’s visions” . The true beauty, in which every century recognizes itself, can be found in upright stones, ships’ hulls, the blade of an axe, the wing of a plane, a plane’s wing. “Symmetry is what we see at a glance; based on the fact that there is no reason for any difference…”
The Idealist Conception
Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist. Modern man, raised on Kantian idealism, sees nature as nothing more than the result of mental laws. Things, having lost their independence as divine works, now gravitate around human thought, from which their laws are derived. After that, what if criticism had resulted in the virtual abolition of all metaphysics? […]… When the universe is reduced to mental laws, man, who has now become the creator, loses all ability to rise above himself. He is now the prisoner of his own work, and he will never be able to escape it. He is the legislator of a world to which his own mind has given birth. […] If my thought is my state of being, I will never be able to transcend the limits of my being by thought, and my capacity for the infinite will never be satisfied.”
In The Symposium. In the midst of a drinking party, Socrates recounts the teachings of his instructress, one Diotima, on matters of love. She connects the experience of beauty to the erotic or the desire to reproduce. But the desire for reproduction is associated in turn with a desire for the immortal or eternal: ‘And why all this longing for propagation? Because this is the one deathless and eternal element in our mortality ’(Plato, 559, [Symposium 206e–207a).
I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are good ideas and bad ideas. You’re wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad ideas but some of them are on opposite sides.
The quest for universal beauty must find him mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung — that is, from one to two, and from two to every lovely body, says Plato. This conception has had many expressions in the modern era, including in such figures as Schiller, and Hegel. According to these figures, the experience of art and beauty is a primary bridge between the material and the spiritual. It is beauty and art that performs this integration, rather than the natural world itself.
Hedonist Conceptions: Love and Longing
You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred. As long as your ideas of what’s possible are limited by what’s actual, no other idea has a chance. The Greeks have long associated beauty with love, as evidenced by early myth. “Beauty” is the quality or those qualities in bodies, by which they cause love or some passion similar to it. It’s the desire to be beautiful that leads to wisdom, he says. If this state of infinite longing could be trained on the truth, we would have a path to wisdom. If I had my way we’d sleep every night all wrapped around each other like hibernating rattlesnakes.
Actually, doomsday is a wonderful time. The most wonderful time, even. This is the only time in history where there’s a chance for people to abandon all of their cares and burdens and belong entirely to themselves. It’s stupid to be like him. The most responsible way of life right now is to enjoy ourselves while we can.
Thinkers of the 18th century, many of them oriented toward empiricism — accounted for beauty in terms of pleasure. By the time of Kant’s Third Critique, for perhaps two centuries, the direct connection of beauty to pleasure was taken as a commonplace. According to Kant, people are only projecting their own judgment upon external phenomena that have no aesthetic value at all. The sunset, he insists, is neither beautiful nor ugly. In fact, sunsets don’t even exist as such.
“Shut your eyes and see.”
The role of the artist isn’t to manufacture illusions of meaning in a meaningless world, but to excavate the real meaningfulness that lies hidden from the ego mind. For Aquinas, Wilde, and others, beauty exists as a fundamental reality that we, as beholders, can come to witness as something larger than us. In James Joyce’s view, beauty is the basic quality we apprehend in things when we see them for what they really are. The artist’s task is not to represent nature but to expand it by creating more of the stuff. Henri Bergson insisted that if we could see the world directly, there would be no need for art. What is revealed to us through art is a plane of reality that combines the observer, the act of observation, and the sensation of one event. All works of radical beauty amount to a kind of science fiction. The word “beautiful” can only mean something unrepeatable about it: The arts are no more general than nature; they are concerned with each, particular, bodily made event in a painting, a dance, or a song, for example. In the arts, the universe has favored science, mathematics, theology, and law and disfavored the arts.
We can find ways to lift the repression and invite the return of beauty. Lifting the repression can not be done directly, as if solely by making a beautiful thing, he writes. To escape from this dilemma — that the repressor of beauty in its attempt to make beauty will only cause more repression — we must move indirectly. The road to beauty means for the ego to enter conditions like those of beauty, he says. Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.
In the U.S. you have to be a deviant or die of boredom. There is nothing more provocative than minding your own business. There is no great reward for being emotionally distant, no pity prize for suppressing your anger. No one is coming to congratulate you on your long-term self-control. It’s possible that by opening up, you’ll annoy some people. Perhaps you’ll cause a squabble. It’s possible that you’ll be rejected, criticized, and judged. Everything has a cost, and everything has a remuneration. Then you’ll have to overcome some of the defenses we saw against like: wit and parody, appeal to the mind before the senses, sentimental literalism, sweetness, slickness without complexity, surface without depth.
So what can I do?
- One is the willingness to let go of irony.
- There’s also the courage to be scared. If beauty is defined as that which causes the soul to “shrink within itself, deny the thing, turn away from it, resentful and alienated from it,” then there will be
- A third road comes from Plotinus. Seek the ugly (i.6.2). He defined the ugly as that which causes the soul to “shrink within itself, deny the thing, turn away from it. Terrifying masks and distorted sculpture, toward old chairs and old shoes, toward machines, toward rusty steel and plastic, toward slabs of dead meat and dismembered human bodies, toward ordinary manufactured objects, warplanes, celebrity cheapness, toward crude matter of mud, barbed wire, and broken glass, and with such success that we can hardly imagine. Consider what Constable did for the disapproved topos of landscape, what Goya did for images of war’s horror, what Toulouse-Lautrec, George Grosz, and Otto Dix did for society’s ruined discards, and what Mapplethorpe did for the sexually outcast. Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.
- Another requirement I recommend is to take a chance on gorgeous or exquisite intensity, that is, to take a chance on excess. There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve. You can decide whether this is a baroque, romantic, or eccentric prejudice of mine, but let us remember the value of prejudices is, if we allow prejudices to become excessive, then they may reveal their ultimate intention. Perhaps it was their violent prejudices, not their search for idealized beauty, that drove Blake, Mondrian, and Cezanne to their extremes.
- The Hellenic world’s most important commandment was to not overlook or dismiss the gods. Perhaps art, like everything else we do as humans, remembers nonhuman and immortal powers, he writes. Ritual halts the forward motion of the will and ego toward a fixed goal in favor of a dedication to the ritual’s powers. Then, by anchoring the mind in nonhuman values, we could lift repression from beauty, he says.
The humanist program, without a doubt, is insufficient: social protest and political concern, exploration of self-expression and full exploitation of materials, reaction of one school or movement to another, not to mention the desire for fame, career, and money, are insufficient anchors of the mind’s intention in the creation of art. If there’s time for one last thought, make it this. Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.
The gasp I mentioned comes from the chest, which is where the heart chakra is located in Kundalini Yoga. We won’t be able to live until this chakra awakens, until the heart opens. In time, your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. Knowing you might not make it… in that knowledge courage is born. The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time… and you can’t see it if you refuse to face the possibility. Open your mind and let the pictures out.