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Oscars 2013

I’m far from a movie buff. Last year I saw The Hobbit and The Hunger Games. Really. I didn’t even see Avengers OR Dark Knight Rises, much less Argo or Beasts of the Southern Wild. But the Oscars were still good fun.

A few of my favorites from the evening:

Kristen Stewart’s dress: Sparkly dresses ruled the night, but Kristen’s gown toned down the glitz with a subtle shimmer. The sheer lacy look is right on trend, and glammed up for the red carpet. Completed with tulle tufts around the skirt and short train, this is the dress I’d most want to wear myself.

Adele: She was pure class singing Skyfall and accepting her Oscar. I hope she EGOTs.

Samantha Barks: I didn’t see Les Miserables, so I wasn’t aware of the astonishing voice talents of its Eponine, Samantha Barks. She was my favorite part of the Les Mis sequence, and now I have to see the movie.

Jennifer Lawrence: She won best actress, tripped walking to the stage, handled it like a pro, and said the phrase “this is nuts!” in her acceptance speech. Oh, and her complete look was stunning.

Michelle Obama: She reminded us that movies don’t exist simply as superficial pageantry to make gobs of money for those who are already rich, but movies are stories, and stories are good for us. Here are her words:

“[These movies] taught us that love can endure against all odds and transform our lives in the most surprising ways…They reminded us that we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough, and fight hard enough, and find the courage to believe in  ourselves. These lessons apply to all of us, no matter who we are, or what we look like, or where we come from, or who we love. But they are especially important for our young people. Everyday through engagement in the arts our children learn to open their imaginations, dream just a little bigger, and strive every day to reach those dreams.”


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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.


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 Noumenal and Phenomenal: How to make Art.

In Celtic lore, the phrase ‘thin place’ refers to a location where the barrier between heaven and earth is thinner than other places, meaning the glory of the heavenly realm is more easily accessed at those locations.

I’m about to steal the term for my own purposes.

I believe that true Art creates thin places between the phenomenal and noumenal realms. In my previous post on the matter I mentioned four beautiful things (sunsets, Porsches, the Taj Mahal and The Raft of The Medusa) saying that The Raft of The Medusa is the only one I would consider art. Unlike the Porsche, its purpose does not lie in the phenomenal realm. It exists to cause it’s viewers to ponder noumenal elements.  It thus reunites the observer, and the phenomenal elements used to create the painting, with the noumenal.

So here is my definition of Art (as distinguished from my first category, beautiful things): created from phenomenal items (paint, words, sounds, etc) in order to reunite the observer (and the phenomenal elements themselves) with the noumenal realm.

(I say reunite, because the proper relationship between phenomenal and noumenal is unity; the world was created with no ‘thick places’. I assert they have been improperly separated, but that is for another post.)