A blogalectic with Jenna St. Hilaire and Masha
We’ve been talking about Beauty, what it is and what it isn’t. That leads us to some very strange places, and long words like kataphasis, apophasis, and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagate. Apophatic thinker that I am, I see this simply as a human predicament: the less we’re comfortable with something, the harder it is to understand, the more we take refuge in
very long words.* So there is something startling, something radical in its simplicity, when Jenna find the chutzpah to write this:
All I can say is that beauty can be found anywhere on this earth, and in wildly different things, if one only troubles themselves to search it out.
This underlies, I think, the core disagreement between Jenna and Masha. Whereas Masha directs us to the Good, the universal, Jenna directs us to the immediate, the particular. This is the distinction that divides Western thought between itself. The line may be a fine one, but it seems my compatriots are on opposite sides. (For myself, if you’re interested, I explore the particular and the apophatic, and I think that probably tells you more about me than either of us think.)
Masha draws from Jenna’s subsequent, and eloquent, discussion of beauty to reemphasise the role of the individual artist:
In so many ways, the role of the artist is similar to the role of the prophet, a "necessary other" existing and creating, not in "untrammeled freedom" but in an "exacting form of discipline" (Kathleen Norris) that submits the Artist to the demands of his vocation and demands from him not only talent, but devotion and commitment as well. It is a communal role, a social role – creating the "lie that tells the truth" (Picasso) and presenting the world as it really is, in all it’s intimacy, passion, failure, and ultimate, glorious beauty. That is why, when the artist fails to call forth the riches of his world, when he calls his world poor, empty, and uninspiring, he fails to create art.
I don’t know the source of the Picasso quotation, but I’m not sure I like it. A lie can’t tell the truth. A lie is just a lie. The truth may look like a lie if we’re not ready to perceive it, but a lie is a lie. My difficulty may be semantic but it’s there.
More important to me is this idea of the artist as a sort of prophet. This is a concept that’s intrigued me for some time, owing partly to how it was put forward by Novalis, and its subsequent influence on George MacDonald. But there’s another parallel I’m exploring, which I’ll explain, somewhat, below the jump.