They call me the king of broken glass
I do aesthetics, little a. Those are questions I find written in the face of my world asking: how do we understand Superman and his middle America as a creation of two jewish immigrants? what is the difference between the re-exploration of gothic architecture in the Notre Dame school and the postmodern architects and how do they compare to the renaissance use of Greek and Roman structures? how does art age? what’s the role of work? what do we think about the inescapable violence of form? what’s the involvement of economics and politics in art?
So I’ve been drawn to Aesthetics, had my interest rise to meet the big A, only to be confused by the questions, finding them unasked by my world and unaskable, the questions of a sophomore and a Socrates impressed by the intonations and demanding a simplicity that’s crude and goofy.
Where am I supposed to find the answers to What is Beauty? Can I spend enough days in the museum, pause long enough the sound of a poem, love someone enough, to answer that question? But we know that Beauty, Beauty like that, isn’t something you can see and it’s not even something that is in art.
For Beauty to be big enough, it can’t be tangible. It must be beyond the mere beauty we find in the world around us. It must be an abstraction casting shadows into the gallery-cave. Every beautiful thing can only be a participation, a pale representation of Beauty (capitalized). If we ask What is Beauty? we must wave away every example, devalue every beautiful thing as being shadows not interesting us. We must, to do Aesthetics like this, we must abandon the world of art, the world of beautiful things, and climb out to the intangibles and the abstractions.
But if we do think of Beauty that big and think about the claim made by Beauty that big, we run a course through Anselm – 1) I can conceive of something more beautiful than which cannot be conceived; 2) it is more beautiful to exist than to not exist; 3) that-which-greater-than-which-none-can-be-conceived must exist – and reel into theology.
Aesthetics, when capitalized, seems to me to be either something that falls out of a theology, or a slate of pretensious questions that deny art and beauty everywhere they find it.