AnnieKO'Connor


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Twenty Four

It is the count between
measures of sun: again
crescendo, again hush,
expecting the repeat.

It is the tomb, still sod
and soil, uninformed
of flesh and coffin
coming with a shovel.

Or silence who, mindless
of thunder’s clap, startles
at the sudden knock from
sound, the slow traveler.

It is the monk, patient,
gardening curséd earth,
though reaping fruit heavy
on branches in Eden.

Or the wedding: the groom
and guests await the bride’s
approach. She, elsewhere, veiled
and shaking starts to walk.

Snow floods the plain, keeping
the secret that summer
wheat will ripple as waves
across the thawed sea bed.

So the revolutions
continue, the unknown
awaited thing, coming
soon, has been accomplished.

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Beauty and Order

The woods are not beautiful because of the way they make us feel. Nor the sunset, nor the stars.

They are beautiful, in part, because of the mystery that perfect science has created them. There has been no artifice, no test tubes; only the purest workings of molecules subjected to their circumstances over time have created in this order these items.

The Romantic prefers to ignore reason, referring to rationality as an inhibition, something binding us and blindfolding the eyes of our souls. But this is not so. Reason is the eyes of our souls. Order, meaning, logic, structure, science, objectivity are what make beauty beautiful. A sentence without meaning can hold no beauty: a grammarless concatenation of letters/words could not create a poem, a novel, a classic. It could not change the world. It is grammar that makes the sentence, science—the grammar of the world—that makes ordered organisms grow according to some written standard, according to its law, that makes the tree beautiful.

Order is the alchemist.

So when we purvey the beauty thus created, we cannot then shirk order as an inhibition. We cannot imagine that beauty frees us from order. How can something so necessary for beauty be the very thing that beauty disallows? It cannot.

Even an abstract painting is the beauty of order. Take Jackson Pollock. It is our eyes that refuse to be dizzied and confused by his paintings that subsume the whole into a unit that causes the painting to be beautiful. And more so its place in the history of art, its grammatical response, its logical rebuttal to what preceded it, adds to its value.

It is not when our so-called inhibitions are eliminated that we discover the truest beauty. It is when the overwhelming power of order in the universe is reunited with semantics, with life, and with human creatures capable of beholding that power, when beauty is at its height. Beauty is the reunion of the disparate realms.


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Beauty and the Existence of God

Arguments for the existence of God are abundant and largely inconclusive. Their coherence is encouraging to theists, but their apologetic value is limited. In my post the problem of the a priori I discussed what I see as the futility of philosophy, and many of the arguments for the existence of God (or the nonexistence, for that matter) are subject to this same futility.

This is not, I believe, reason for despair.

When I think of my own belief in the existence of God, I am not overwhelmed with my inability to prove it. On the contrary, all my efforts to shirk my belief in God have failed due to an inability on my part not to believe in God.

My inability has struck me as strange on several occasions. But during recent reading about the nature of art, I was struck by an analogy that gave me some clarity.

I believe that beauty exists. I cannot prove it. There are no arguments for its existence that indicate that belief in it is rational, necessary, practical or moral. And yet I believe that beauty exists. When I see it, I cannot deny it. I recognize it in art, in nature, in people, and though I cannot prove it I continue to seek it, to long for it, to devote my energies toward it.

My belief in the existence of God is the same. I am not worried by my inability to prove He exists. But when I see Him, I recognize it (though far less often than I could). At times I long for him, to seek him and devote my energies toward him. And when I hear arguments against the existence of God, it is like hearing arguments against the existence of beauty; How could any logic outweigh my experience of beauty?

So why doesn’t everyone see God where I do? I don’t know. And belief in God necessitates nothing about his relationship to humans, nor his character or nature.

Can we prove the existence of beauty? Is non-rational belief in beauty a hindrance to rationality?

Let me know what you think.


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The Problem of the a priori

Two major schools of thought over the last century serve to reveal the futility of philosophy. Logical Positivism and Subjectivism are both highly problematic (sure, in practice but most importantly) foundationally.

Logical Positivism relies on empiricism, positing that in order for a belief to be meaningful it must be empirically verifiable or falsifiable. Ultimately, however, this philosophical tenet evaluates itself as a non-meaningful belief. The necessity of empirical validation cannot itself be validated, and so adherence to the belief is fundamentally a priori.  This a priori foundation is unnerving to the logical positivist, but seems to be unavoidable.

Subjectivism falls into the same trap. Simply put, subjectivism holds that there are absolutely no absolute truths. It is clear, however, that subjectivism is truly based on the belief that there is only one absolute truth; the absence of absolute truth. This system too cannot prove itself; it is based on the a priori acceptance of itself.

Given these examples, dependence on the a priori seems to be inevitable. It is in fact exasperating to attempt avoiding this dependence on an unprovable tenet, and yet is there any belief system that does not do so? And how can we be comforted knowing our beliefs are ultimately non-rational?

Let me know what you think: