Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fred comes to Camille

No, it's not polite to use first names to refer to better thinkers than oneself, but in land of the ubiquitous dude references, first names are almost formal. Anyway, Fred finds himself agreeing with Paglia's point that: “Great art can be made out of love for religion as well as rebellion against it. But a totally secularized society with contempt for religion sinks into materialism and self-absorption and gradually goes slack, without leaving an artistic legacy.” He writes:

Writing a Wagnerian score requires (I think) a sense of the transcendent. To write The Lord of the Rings or to paint Leda and the swan, one need not believe in Norse gods raging in battle against chill skies, or a muscled Zeus throwing thunderbolts, or Pan leering from darkling forests. You need a mind that doesn’t smell of electrical insulation. This, few now have. The sciences are remorselessly literal. They do not admit of transcendence, wonder, or magnificence. People today drink this terrible narrowness with their mother’s milk and seldom get beyond it. They do not know what they have lost.

I hesitate to fall back on the pragmatic in defending religion, but it is a fact not easily disparaged. The irreligious society is not only darker, but it is more dull. Patrons of the arts should be wary of casting out all religion. We've only been around a little while, but, at the very least, the post-modern, post-pagan society has demonstrated an inability to create good art. Things bode badly for us.


Doom said...

I consider math and science to be the replacement of art, in the post-modern world. If the fundamental theorem of calculus is no Rembrandt, and the theory of relativity is no Picasso, they are what we have and they are impressive both in cost of attainment and creation. And yet, if you ever see a painting canvass-sized hand "painted" differential equation worked out (if it fits! *laughs*), I think even the mathematically illiterate would understand the power therein. And, hopefully, see some of the beauty of the world around them articulated symbolically. One can almost understand the pagan interest in symbology. I actually have a notion to begin "painting" some of the more beautiful of these. I think my self-imposed limitation to this will be that I must functionally understand the formulas and symbols used. Hey, it would draw me in for even more reasons than I currently have. Especially since much of the math used in my field of interest is never done by hand (outside of school) these days.

Be well. I'm hoping classes are going well and life is good for you. I have great (if a bit vicarious and somewhat anonymous) hopes for you. Finals are coming, God Speed on those.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Good art will always be focused on the transcendent. There is beauty in mathematics, but it's not the kind which causes one to gasp in awe as a great work of art like the Sistine Chapel does.

I have two more weeks of classes, followed by a solitary final, before setting out for the real world.

I wish you well, and thank you for your kind words. Take care.

troutsky said...

A common,dare I say post-modern error is confusing religiosity with spiritualism more generally.Secular only refers to the seperation of church and state, not the condemnation of religion.One can hold both views of course, I find religion a regressive force but allow for it's existence within certain limits.As for transcendence, doom makes the great point that it is wherever you find it, religion being one ,small area in a large field.

Doom said...

I am not sure I would call math, or even art, transcendent. I think they are quite mundane, normal in topic, function, and form. It is only when coupled with a source of the transcendent within the applicant (artist) that the transcendent is fulfilled, in part, via the art.

As well, I do not believe anything non-religious/spiritual can attain transcendence. Everything not from beyond the known and knowable is mortal, changing, fallible, since it exists within time and space. This is why science and art, without God, are as dry as ancient bones. It's only an infusion of 'the other' which will ever drive inspiration in the 'here and now', and that only through the participant.

Though, I do not believe, necessarily, that one religion will drive all. I do, however, believe that there does exist a superior driver and many inferior systems of inspiration. That point, of course, is biased. But in my defense, bias is only useless when it is incorrect. Using bias to obtain superior products for lesser cost is a good thing (to the only one anyone including an atheist (even) could consider in such a topic, himself). (don't go global here, either. those that prefer to be self-sacrificing (from permanent sterilization to lesser vehicles for more money do so in a substituted self evaluation and world "man" equivalence in a general sense, so they do this for themselves, still, give or take.)