The True Mystery
People say sometimes that Beauty is superficial. That may be so. But at least it is not so superficial as Thought is. To me, Beauty is the wonder of wonders. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
Terry Teachout writes in Commentary: “Not long ago I was introduced to an audience as an “intellectual.” This was a well-meaning choice of word, and a flattering one, but it was slightly off. An intellectual is a person who is mainly interested in ideas. I am an aesthete—a person who is mainly interested in beauty. Nowadays the word aesthete carries with it the musty reek of high Victoriana. Still, there remains no better word to describe the way certain people—people like me—view the world.
It’s not that aesthetes are hostile to ideas. But it’s part of aesthetic wisdom that there is great danger in allowing ideas alone to take the reins and ride mankind, since too often they end up riding individual men and women into mass graves. Far too many intellectuals have been what Jacob Burckhardt called “terrible simplifiers,” the power-hungry idea-mongers whose utopian visions have inspired the world’s most murderous tyrants. That is reason enough to decline to be counted among their number.
And yet it is also true that many aesthetes are too impatient or uninterested to learn the details of how things actually work and end up taking a comically simple-minded view of the way they should work. If there were an Artists’ Party, its platform would look much like the one summed up in James Gould Cozzens’s novel The Just and the Unjust: “Any kid can work out a program of more ice cream and less school and free movies and him telling other people what to do instead of people always telling him.”
Still, as I say, aesthetes have it over intellectuals in one important respect: You’ll rarely catch them hustling anyone off to the nearest guillotine.
For all their frequent foolishness, their hands are stained with ink and paint, not blood.Needless to say, aesthetes have their own enemies, as does art itself. H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” While Puritanism was and is more complicated than that, Mencken was on to something. If, for instance, you take a look at the long list of items that were banned by the Taliban Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, you’ll find “any equipment that produces the joy of music.” Rarely have the enemies of art unfolded themselves more fully.”
Read the rest here.