Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Goe, and catch a falling starre

History makes you sad, politics and ideology make you angry – literature, on the other hand... On the gloomy morning bus today, watching the ghastly Mormon angel on top of their shiny new temple in Espoo, I was somehow reminded of this memorable phrase in a poem by John Donne, such a pleasure his poetry has been in my life. How could this existence be possible without poetry, without art? This is not to say that art, that literature is only for entertainment or that it is for entertainment – the term does not begin to describe the centrality of art to our experience. As in many things its meaning for me has to be expressed in very old-fashioned terms (I seem to have completely missed the postmodern train): art for me is the fusion of ethics and esthetics. Something I suppose you might have heard from the mouth of George Eliot. When we engage with esthetics we are engaging with ethics. Our natural existence is something else, purely amoral and concrete.

Once out of nature... In some ways I would not see myself, any of us, as any bodily form, but such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make – the point is not facile, or overly “poetic”: it fundamentally describes our predicament of being only pilgrims in art, only occasional visitors with our waking life being in the prison of history. Or is it the other way round? I see our mundane, everyday existence as quite unreal: where we have the long views, the meaningful things is in philosophy, in art. (Here, I strongly disagree with Plato though I see his critical point about art – but it does find shortcuts, vistas that are very hard or even impossible for pure philosophy to find.) I am currently being overwhelmed with work varyingly calmly wondering whether I will sink or swim, in a situation where there are few good alternatives should the answer be the former. And all meaning is somewhere else, in love and friendship, in art: go and catch a falling star, get with a child a mandrake root...

2 comments:

helsinkian said...

It is interesting how this ethics and esthetics issue divides people and what kind of works of art get discussed when there is no connection between the two. To me there always is because the ethics issue is such an underlying fabric of my worldview. Now I haven't read, say, Bret Easton Ellis, but that's the kind of stuff that's easy to discuss with people of postmodern orientation seeing ethics as divorced from art. But I suppose to me it's exactly the ethics perspective that is even more interesting in that type of art.

As a reader of your blog it's an added bonus that the ethics perspective is always there. Art reaffirms life and my life is in some sense about ethics. Ethics is the glue that makes every little detail of life go together. It's not so much a philosophical discussion of ethics I'm talking about but ethics as a quintessential perspective for a worldview. I don't think you can divorce ethics from art and if that is done, ethics becomes an even bigger issue. I'm not saying ethics has to be absolutely everywhere but still.

stockholm slender said...

I agree quite completely - it is a striking image and very good encapsulation of my views to descripe ethics as the glue of human life. I understand that there are strong counter arguments about this relationship between art and ethics, but for me there is no question. Art without this dimension would not be art.