Pretty pretty

“An aesthetic response to forms is essential to the attainment of an authentic subjectivity and a creative self-illuminating awareness that is immersed in nature beyond the vacillations of personal emotion”

–Heine

 

The judgment of a thing as beautiful is typically predicated on comparison, that the characteristics of the beautiful thing are superior to another, flawed, less beautiful thing. Thus, beauty and perfection are aligned, beauty is the expression of the most perfect example of a thing, which strikes me as very Platonic. A better understanding of beauty, one that I’ve worked toward possessing without articulating it, is one of recognizing that everything is an example of perfection, and hence of beauty, and the hard work is not in discerning value by comparison with other things of the same class, but in being able to recognize, fully, the beauty of anything, in and of itself. So, a splotch of whitening bird shit on the sidewalk is beautiful in and of itself, though of course it is in a different class of things from a painting, or a symphony, or a skyscraper, or genetically modified seeds. I include the last because there are a whole class of things that I want to exclude, to say there is nothing beautiful about genocide, or torture, or my neighbor punching her six year old child in the head, surely there is nothing beautiful in these things. In fact, to say a thing is beautiful as not the same thing as saying it is right, though it’s very difficult to not make that leap, and the danger of trying to see the beauty in that which we fight against is a fatalism, the idea that we shouldn’t fight against something because we recognize it as beautiful, as perfect in and of itself.  Beauty is also not static, however, nor is perfection, and raging against a thing—murder, say—is not distinct from understanding its beauty. I can look at the Execution of a Viet Cong Guerilla and feel the horror a life ended, the sheer visceral shock of the blast, the wincing surprise on Bay Hop’s face (is death always a surprise, even if we see it coming? Is not belief in our own end something beyond human comprehension?), the offhanded nature of the act, and this horror does not mean that the photograph, first of all, is not beautiful and perfect, for it is, a moment of time as complete as every other, or even that the action itself is not beautiful, that is, as an act of brutality, it is meaningful, even is only to remind us of what we must fight against and, while it is not pleasurable, it is satisfying in it’s complete ugliness. I guess that’s what I’m trying to establish, that ugliness is not the opposite of beauty, it is simply a characteristic of beauty, a kind of beauty that we must work harder to recognize. Once we recognize it, we recognize our how much the thing is part of us, and we it, which sounds rather Buddhist: beauty is an act of apprehending, without attachment, how the qualities of a given thing engage the perceiver, for this engagement removes the distinction between thing and perceiver, even if the thing is repulsive, even if it only lasts an instant. Fatalism is not the necessary outcome of detachment, compassion is, so the apprehension of beauty leads to compassion.

 

CDs listened to by me (yes, they are all beautiful, though some are pursuing a model of beauty that makes me sad): 700) The Byrds: Box Set (forgot how much breadth there was to this band); 701) Steely & Clevie : Play Studio One Vintage; 702) Cocktails for Two: Romance With a Twist; 703) Guru: Jazzamatazz; 704) Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada; 705) St. Etienne: Tiger Bay; 706) Teddy Pendergrass: Greatest Hits; 707) Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By; 708) Bad Religion: Stranger Than Fiction; 709) Redbelly: Scraps; 710) Kinky Friedman: Kinky Friedman; 711) Various: Songs of West Side Story; 712) 3 Mustaphas 3: Heart of Uncle; 713) Parliament: The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein; 714) Can: Ege Bamyasi; 715) Julie London: Sophisticated Lady; 716) Forest for the Trees: Forest for the Trees; 717) Cat Power: The Greatest; 718) Iris DeMent: Infamous Angel; 719) Loudon Wainwright III: Here Come the Choppers; 720) Alison Moyet: Essex.