Towards an aesthetic

What with my reading of Opening to Inner Light and other tasty books, I know we’re heading towards a fireside discussion more meaty than we’ve had in a while, but I think this bit may not be able to wait.C4090-456

Yesterday, as I mindlessly surfed the intertubes, I came across this site:  It is OMG•NSFW, so I’ll provide a couple of samples here and links to particularly egregious examples. [NSFW!!!]

Those should suffice.  The entire website is jawdroppingly, gobsmackingly, entirely like these samples.  Only much, much worse.  Much, much, much worse.

I like tattoos.  I have a couple myself and wouldn’t mind one more, if I were allowed.  And I find them to be fascinating body modifications on others in most circumstances.  But honest to God, I came across very few tattoos on this site that I was able think, “Wow, that’s cool/beautiful/transgressive/sexy.”  They were all grotesque.  (I did like this one. [SFW, if weird])

So in our neverending discussion of “What is art?”, I’d like to ask in the immortal acronym embodied above, “WTF?”  How are we to fit these manifestations of our creative imperative into the schema of that imperative?  (I’ve tagged this with the Corroborative Evidence category; is that where we are with this?)C4090-455



This is genius.  It’s a passage from Middlemarch, describing Mr. Casaubon, a middle-aged cleric whose life-work has been writing a Key to All Mythologies, apparently a syncretic work which will Explain It All once and for all.  He has yet to publish the work or even come close to tying it all up in any kind of coherent package.  He has recently married Dorothea Brooke, a young, pretty, pious, and educated young woman who thinks she will find happiness assisting him in his labors.

Read it, and read it carefully.  Respond in comments.

He had not had much foretaste of happiness in his previous life. To know intense joy without a strong bodily frame, one must have an enthusiastic soul. Mr. Casaubon had never had a strong bodily frame, and his soul was sensitive without being enthusiastic: it was too languid to thrill out of self-consciousness into passionate delight; it went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched, thinking of its wings and never flying. His experience was of that pitiable kind which shrinks from pity, and fears most of all that it should be known: it was that proud narrow sensitiveness which has not mass enough to spare for transformation into sympathy, and quivers thread-like in small currents of self-preoccupation or at best of an egoistic scrupulosity. And Mr. Casaubon had many scruples: he was capable of a severe self-restraint; he was resolute in being a man of honor according to the code; he would be unimpeachable by any recognized opinion.

In conduct these ends had been attained; but the difficulty of making his Key to all Mythologies unimpeachable weighed like lead upon his mind; and the pamphlets–or “Parerga” as he called them–by which he tested his public and deposited small monumental records of his march, were far from having been seen in all their significance. He suspected the Archdeacon of not having read them; he was in painful doubt as to what was really thought of them by the leading minds of Brasenose, and bitterly convinced that his old acquaintance Carp had been the writer of that depreciatory recension which was kept locked in a small drawer of Mr. Casaubon’s desk, and also in a dark closet of his verbal memory.

These were heavy impressions to struggle against, and brought that melancholy embitterment which is the consequence of all excessive claim: even his religious faith wavered with his wavering trust in his own authorship, and the consolations of the Christian hope in immortality seemed to lean on the immortality of the still unwritten Key to all Mythologies. For my part I am very sorry for him. It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self– never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted. Becoming a dean or even a bishop would make little difference, I fear, to Mr. Casaubon’s uneasiness.

Doubtless some ancient Greek has observed that behind the big mask and the speaking-trumpet, there must always be our poor little eyes peeping as usual and our timorous lips more or less under anxious control.

What is art?

All I could think of when watching this–and I felt like Terence Stamp’s character in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert during the ping pong ball scene–was how grateful I was not to be undergoing entheogenesis at the time.

Discuss. (The name of the song is “Solid Potato Salad.”)

Jubilate Agno

You probably know Christopher Smart‘s schizophrenic Jubilate Agno from its most famous segment, “To His Cat Jeoffry.”  I recently came across the whole thing online.  (“Jeoffry” is part of Fragment B4.)

Pretty amazing stuff, head over heels more honest than Gertrude Stein.  But what to do with it?  This is why I bring it to the Society’s attention.  It seems that we ought to be able to respond to this in some way.