Art and Conversation

As I was becoming disenchanted with my perhaps immature concept of art and writing and the such, the topic came up in a conversation that turned into a sort of appreciation of the beauty of reality itself beyond creations about it: moments never mangled by anything or anyone, nor even Art or Science.

For a little while, I was sick of the thought of forcing ideas into paper while there was a stronger desire for more of a sort of simple reality to be unearthed, to be perceived or discovered purely–combined with the  obvious frustration that I wouldn’t know what to do with it. Even if such a thing as unearthing reality meant meant simply to attain a concept in my mind, I felt I would not want to corrupt it on paper. Part of its beauty is, after all, how fleeting its bits are: how it pertains to only a moment, how it doesn’t depend on perception. Yet, I was ironically trying to appreciate it by an attempt to extend it and explore. The moment was that engaging conversation, almost magical even.

I still knew that later, after reading a good book or watching a good movie, I would taunt myself again with the idea that creating was worth the effort—but for the moment, reality was too precious to meddle with using anything more complex than the conversation in turn. Maybe also too precious for that, but that didn’t seem to stop it any more than just slowing it with all my thoughts. Conversation was the only thing I could do at the moment—moment that I was enjoying while contemplating it.

And then, while in the same conversation, I remembered the beauty of the book of Job. And so I started to return to a certain appreciation of Art inside my mind that reflected into the conversation. Art still remained unreachable if it desired any relevance—at least it seemed unreachable by most mortals and me, but it again became something real in the universe, and so, something worth the effort.

There might be no way we can truly capture life on paper or screen or canvas, it is likely that nothing we do will match the real thing—simply consider art’s vanity and its limitations as it can only speak to part of the human perception. Still those attempts are a reality in themselves and they have their own unique qualities.

Plus I still like it. I think about it more than I give it a serious try.

The beauty of the original is that it is only fleeting to our perception, its beauty goes on beyond it—it is there, constantly alive regardless of acknowledgement. Reality is God moving despite the blanks he seems to leave in space and time; which, when seen as a whole, form that perfect all.

Even if nothing we do will match the real thing, when some perceive such bits of reality, frustrated by their being fleeting to our perception, they strive to make it into a something we can see and handle. It is different from the real thing, but that makes it a precious bit in itself to experience and contemplate.

Later in the conversation, I came to appreciate the Art of Conversation, with which I will close this rant. Conversation itself can also be the unearthing, the discovering, the pinpointing and attempting-in-a-phrase to bring to life a particle of truth to the beholder. Yet it doesn’t need as complex a craft as other types of Art. It doesn’t need to get a background as the background is already implied. The beholders are pushing you to create, giving you a course in which you are forced to act. The conversation is alive outside of you and you decide what to create with it. As a work of the mind, conversations do not have much permanence. They have less reach and so render less glory.  That too is part of their beauty.


It was Easter again.

A New Post

So I was thinking last April, “I will write something again in that blog now that: it has been a year since I started it; I miserably failed my goals for it; the inspiration for my first topic, Easter, is coming up and could be a sort of reprise for this year”.

Needless to say, I didn’t do it. If you look at the date here, it is the last day of May 2009, It would be more fitting to celebrate my “A title for this“ anniversary—which by the way might celebrate the spirit of this blog better. There are a total of nine posts in this blog that is over a year old. Ten now.

However, there are things to celebrate with myself about this post. This is the first post I do in 2009. This is the first post I do using a Mac (which I have been using for half a year already) and I am the cliche that loves it.

What can I say of this time? More politics, more work, less art (not that I am an artist, but most of the words in this whole blog are devoted to two posts which rambled about it). I have not read a whole book since, other than the electronic version of Coraline. I have barely done writing of any kind—not even  quality emails, which were at some point my main outlet for writing. Yet, I have kept myself busy.

It has been good busy. Interesting things have happened. Good things. Summer is always a breaking point. It has been more than one year in which I start feeling change in life around May. Subtly anyway. Through high points in the summer, life develops into something completely different by the fall. It happened in 2006. It probably happened in 2007—if not starkingly. It definitely happened in 2008 (just one sign of it: I blogged—kind of—from April-May to October and then stopped). It sort of happened years before that too. It feels like it is happening in 2009.

So I thought this would be interesting for a post.

Politics and Christianity: An open letter to Christians

This is not a topic I plan to touch upon often in this blog, or an audience I will be talking to directly, but I think the current situation in the US and the part that Christians around the world are taking on it, merits touching upon it. I  commented in some forum regarding these issues and I now base this post on that comment.

I  don’t see Jesus defending his faith like many Christians do today. He simply was, he showed truth, and those who had eyes to see, saw, those who were willing to go into the light, did.

This comes from what is being observed lately as part of the US contention for a president and from not so much the stance, but the attitude that many Christians take in relation to these issues. This of course happens in varying degrees in other countries and has happened for centuries all around the world; the present case in that country simply brings the topic for discussion.

It is pitiful not having atheists and agnostics being the main attackers of Christian stands or even Christian beliefs in general. Such people more often simply express their concerns for their society without having experienced the God their reactive mockers claim to have experienced—a God that showed us the way through Jesus, not by attack, but by mercy and authentic love.

What is pitiful  is having Christians attacking such atheists and agnostics and entering into silly discussions to defend a faith. It would be less pitiful even to have atheists and agnostics being the main attackers of Christian stands or even Christian beliefs in general. Such factions more often simply express their concerns for their society without having experienced the God their reactive mockers claim to have experienced—a God that showed us the way through Jesus, not by attack, but by mercy and authentic love. How necessary is it really to create factions to defend a faith that claims not to pertain to this world and its affairs. Will this give anyone a taste of the God who taught his followers meekness and a heart set in heaven and not Earth? Or will it just make them look better as part of this worldly system as they try to show the world they are in the right?

Do not live to defend your faith or your morals against others, be strong enough to live them and let God do what he will while you remain with a willing heart. Isn’t this what the gospel is more about? Jesus was not recorded entering long heated theological discussions to prove He was the Son of God, he lived being the Son of God. Jesus didn’t create political movements for Roman law to change, he loved individual sinners into repentance.

The society of that time belonged to this world as, in this case, America belongs to this world and is limited to it. Through Jesus came a new society whose members have to be born again to join, but not be forced into it through laws. The society Jesus formed will never be a specific country in this age.

Now, if you believe that the biblical apparent disapproval of gay union (to cite a divisive example) means that such a thing could cause damages to the society you live in, it might be your duty at least with yourself not to support such things. Yet, as a follower of Christ, it is your duty not to viciously fight against the people who support them and to not be driven by emotional instead of spiritual reactions.

Your responsibility is to live with discernment and prayer, with humility and prudence. One of the worldly responsibilities of each person might be to work for the betterment of their society (and consider here that some people “outside the church” carry out this responsibility by promoting homosexual marriage, or by promoting women to have a choice over the unborn). Still, according to the life of the One they are supposed to follow, Christians participate in their worldly duties differently—with true meekness and love and not by the means of those of the world—having in mind that in the end (that is, if you believe the Bible) the world will still go wrong as is and has been its nature through towers and floods and kingdoms and crucifixions and holocausts and wars and all sorts of institutions–religious or not. If you follow God, then your ultimate fight is not for any government at hand to be God’s government. I think that a well-versed Christian will tell you such a thing will not happen, and hence, such a fight is worldly, not heavenly, especially if it is vicious.

God wants souls, not offices. Do not become of this world fighting for a religion or worse yet, to defend your beliefs (does God really need your defense, or do you just want yourself to be justified in the world’s eyes?). Instead, actively be God’s child. America has a problem? Yes, it is, after all, part of this “doomed world”. Yes, it has Christians who live as if they were part of that doomed world. It has Christians who are willing to draw swords to cut ears or wprse, just to see their own morals established. So are we going to be light amidst these problems or conform by being  part of them? Study Christ, do you see him debating? Protesting against governments? Dictating how society should live? He dictated how God’s children should live. He cleansed the church, not society. He never showed the need to defend himself or his faith.

Let the Vomit Roll! A Commentary About Art Part 2: Beauty

(Part One here)

So let the vomit roll!

I have been insisting on certain aspects of art that make it more particular than what some could validly accept for it. In doing so, I have maintained that it somehow, at least partially, acquires its value as such from representing truth. Yet, I mentioned I can enjoy contemplating the topic because I “enjoy the consuming beauty in art.

Before I go on, I will note that though I will not try to come with a careful academic definition of what beauty is, for the purposes of this post I think it safe to use it as a certain enjoyment found in beholding something.

You might then ask, “Is truth always beautiful?” Art is supposed to be beauty in some way or another, but reality seems not to be as kind as art is toward its subjects. Art, transmitting beauty even from tragedy, seems often oblivious to actual reality. It glorifies what some could hold shouldn’t be glorified at all: we see a black and white picture of a child starving and though it saddens us, we are attracted by a certain aspect of it that we could define as beauty while the actual kid couldn’t care less about beauty, nor does he see it or feel it. So art is thus an illusion, an insensitive fake.

And yes, it is a fake in that it is a creation that only seeks to portray some aspect of reality, aspects of a specific set of truths that it can aspire to convey. Though art could define a specific truth, which is more, universal than the many different circumstances in which it could arise, it cannot cover the whole of any of those particular circumstances or realities with every single element that forms them in time and space.

However, and looking back at the picture of the famishing child, when it soars above the part that is actual suffering (which in itself is not art) and looks at a truth lying somewhere within it, even faintly, and detects its thread in the whole canvas of reality, you cannot help but see a sort of beauty. The beauty is not for that child to behold at that moment and he is not expected to, but there is still a beauty in how the specific aspects of the event depicted by that picture play in the whole of reality; in detecting such traits through our shared humanity and existence even if we are never in the child’s exact position to experience. We feel some of that sadness and yet feel a certain pleasure in unearthing that particular aspect of reality, that piece of truth beyond the case in hand: and the part we thus take in it.

There is then an ultimate sense of coherence in the whole that is beautiful, unrestrained by the time and space that affect the actual event. Call it if you will the universal coherence—full of beautifully and chaotically interwoven chaoses—that simply and logically is; and from which we sometimes get to catch a glimpse of one of the threads that make part of it and feel the fascination for such a discovery for which art can be a vehicle. Art thus takes us from the physically restrained scene and gives us a look at the world through hints of threads of truth that connect it to the universal. We can’t help but finding delight in experiencing such a discovery through art, even if it is of just a faint distorted reflection of one of these threads.

Though I think part of this is somewhat touched upon in many of the quotes presented in part 1, here are a few others that I like and which more directly make a relation between beauty and art.

“An artist is an artist only because of his exquisite sense of beauty, a sense which shows him intoxicating pleasures, but which at the same time implies and contains an equally exquisite sense of all deformities and all disproportions.”
— Charles Baudelaire

“Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.”
— Samuel Johnson

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.”
— Edgar Allan Poe

Some of our attempts might simply fall short of accomplishing being a certain truth or at providing us through art at least a ring of a truth that is broader and more powerful than its elements. Yet, these works might end up being likeable, informative, interesting, entertaining, and/or worthy of admiration. Apart from this, it is important to bear in mind that the degree of triumph in creating something that brings a truth alive to the beholder can vary. Add to this the consideration that art can be found in many places: a note that is played in the exact right moment and thus brings something to life that is oddly specific in an otherwise dull formulaic tune; a sole inspired brushstroke in a color experimentation that carries with it a something whose effect you can share with many fellow observers; a story that concludes cheap and outright false principles that are built upon observations of truth we get to savor and experience; a false assumption conveyed in a poem that effectively expresses the author’s true perceptions—all are examples of this art I am talking about. This art is perhaps present in more places than expected, yet it seems to be attributed to more than required. And then again—as much as I’d like there to be a common thread in all art that would separate it from the merely creative or different—being an abstract concept, there could be a lot more “arts” with different qualities than the ones presented here. For this two-part contemplation, which obviously isn’t comprehensive, I decided to talk about these specific traits in it that make it to me more particular.

To wrap this up, here is a last quote about poetry that could restate, if extended to all art, a lot of what was described about it in these two posts.

“A poem should not mean But be.”
— Archibald MacLeish

A Commentary About Art Part 1

The topic about the meaning of art arose recently in a casual conversation. It is often an enjoyable topic though I try to restrain myself from it if I don’t feel the conversation partner would relate in any way. Yes, I do bring it up if someone snobbishly starts talking about art and I happen to disagree; but that’s not what I enjoy. I seek the finer, smaller, simpler, friendlier conversations with people who seem to enjoy in some way or another a certain sort of consuming beauty in art. So this specific conversation made me remember previous conversations, email exchanges, and a specific search for quotes I had made years ago, to ultimately decide to write this. So bear with me, if you know me, as I again talk a little about part of what art means to me and how it opposes (this is where some start disagreeing) to the view that says everything can be art.

I know art can be defined in many ways, the debate about it is not new. In the end, it is the beholder who ends up acknowledging it as such. However, there are so many creative outlets, skilled pieces of work, inspired writing, captivating images created, all of which constitute great things to behold; but there are a few even among these that have a something else that makes them transcendent through time and that speak clearly to people throughout generations. It is that which I want to pin down and separate from other creative endeavors maybe just to honor those lasting accomplishments that effectively recreate certain aspects of truth to the perceptive human eye. Considering it is just a given concept, people have the right to make it whatever they want, but if there can be something more specific that we have no choice but to call art in order to refer to it, I choose to go for that specific.

This time, however, I don’t want to ramble about it, though I know I already am. I started this post wanting to base it on that very small compilation of quotes I had gathered and that I simply enjoy reading. These quotes mostly take poetry as a parting point to describe some elements of art—or if they don’t intend to, I use them to do so. I think good poetry, in its simplicity, has the main elements of art relatively identifiable. I could find authors who have said something like this but I don’t feel like searching and I am bad quoting by memory or remembering names. These quotes I do have here came along after a not so very extensive search of such quotes that could support the ideas about art that I was trying to express in these emails and/or conversations I was having (quite) some time ago.

So one of those things I wanted to support with respected quotes is that art and melodrama are not at all necessarily the same, and I wouldn’t disagree so harshly if someone said they had little to do with each other. It is important to acknowledge that art can and does use melodrama and even sentimentalism; yet it does so rising above it, controlling it and utilizing it as an element to carve itself with. Still, they are not the same thing, and I found one quote that nicely expresses something similar.

“The job of the poet is to render the world—to see it and report it without loss, without perversion. No poet ever talks about feelings. Only sentimental people do.”— Mark Van Doren

I remember reading an article that touched upon the subject. It said, and I loosely paraphrase parting from only memories of having read it quite some time ago: expressing your feelings itself is not art, it’s good and you can do it, but don’t inflict the world with it in the name of art. If you are not going to do it right; remember you can always just keep it to yourself. This might not be valid quoting, but I really enjoyed reading that.

Now, going back to Van Doren’s quote. Art within his idea could talk about feelings in the extent that feelings are part of the world to render, see, and report, without loss or perversion. However, the simple rant of feelings—even the creative ones—are often not what I would like to call art. I agree that sometimes the simple expression of feelings can still present creativity and skill even if by the personal definitions here presented it falls beneath art. And that is good too. If those were not acceptable forms of craft, there wouldn’t be rock ballads that have become so dear to many (not to me); nor would there be soap operas which many are willing to embrace as entertainment. The main issue here is to honor those things that go beyond, that are more relevant because they “render the world” unrestrained from the haze of emotion.

Related to what Van Doren said, there are many other quotes that go deeper into what I want to express about the subject. For me, real art expresses or showcases or materializes truth. Here are a few:

“Poetry is the utterance of deep and heart-felt truth—the true poet is very near the oracle.”
— Edwin Hubbel Chapin

“The poem… is a little myth of man’s capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see – it is, rather, a light by which we may see – and what we see is life. “
— Robert Penn Warren

“[A poem] begins in delight and ends in wisdom.”
— Robert Frost

“The poet is the priest of the invisible.”
— Wallace Stevens

…and more related to art in general, without confining it to poetry:

“Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale ’til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free. “
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

All this doesn’t mean that books have to use realism to portray truth; that books, for example like Naked Lunch, are not art because they are quite “out there” or take too many liberties with their apparent worded pornography, fantasy, or plots that are little concerned on narrative coherence. (That’s the first book that came to mind for some reason. I don’t mention it to state I consider it art or that I don’t; I don’t care too much about that discussion. I am pretty acceptant of those who consider it art and could probably be too of those who don’t.) Even such books—using absurdity, fantasy, and even incoherence—do portray or try to portray a truth  or set of truths, a simple trait or traits of the universe. Inasmuch as they are successful in accomplishing that—to leave those traits be a tangible object comprised in those words or those colors or sounds or the fit of these—they are successful in becoming art; lasting, admirable, re-experience-able art.

One way I like to talk about it is relating it to science. Science, following its method, could never get to explain many truths in the whole realm of reality. And even those it can, to our senses, they mean little: Science does not recreate truth for human perception, we don’t get to sense it or see it as truth; only an area of our brain grasps it as knowledge; we read the data that describes a certain aspect of reality and after questioning it and further developing it in science, we faithfully accept it as a truth. Art, however, goes where science cannot due to its restrictions and has a power of communication that is often more effective than pure data. It’s simple and concise enough to just leave that piece of truth there for you to experience rather than simply accept as a bit of knowledge. I think the quotes already presented express this quite well; yet, Freud makes a more explicit relation between these two particular terms:

“[P]oets are masters of us ordinary men, in knowledge of the mind, because they drink at streams which we have not yet made accessible to science. “
— Sigmund Freud

Dylan Thomas also expresses something about this nicely:

“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”
— Dylan Thomas

(Part 2 here. Though, if you already read this much and actually do want to go on, you might as well read the comments posted here before doing so which present some good points and which give sense to the title of the second part)

A title for this

I don’t know what to type. I do feel better with myself for posting something.