Beauty

Goya etching

The fifth horseman of our apocalypse is a functionary on a mission. Religious imagination expects apocalypse to arrive in a fury. We do not recognize it when it comes, as evil does, in the banal guise of bureaucratic authority and expertise. Our seemingly rational bureaucracies are conduits for camouflaged derangements. Transgender ideology exceeds them all.     In The Flying Trapeze: Three Crises for Physicists, Robert Oppenheimer wrote of man’s technical capacity to achieve self-annihilation by weapons of his own making:
No world has ever faced a possibility of destruction—in a relevant sense annihilation—comparable to that which we face, nor a process of decision-making even remotely like that which is involved in this. 
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Georges Barbier. Incantation (1923). Illustration for an Almanach.

A theologian who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental; they necessarily are reflected in his theology. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Of all the modern substitutes for religion, it is the aesthetic sense which is the most esteemed. Edward Norman, Entering the Darkness
That quote above by then-Cardinal Ratzinger leaves me fidgety. I would rather hear about the potential effect on theology of his pilot’s license—he does have one—than appeals to art, music, nature, the expected perfumes. Continue Reading
Elie Nadelman. Tango (1920-24). Whitney Museum of Art, NYC.

Beauty is my business as thoroughly as trouble is Raymond Chandler’s. Still, you will never catch me talking about “the beautiful.” I have no idea what it is or what it might look like. A transcendental is a bit like a virtual “friend”—you never get to see it. In the lived life, beauty is sensible. It resides in individual things, in matter, the stuff of the world and of man’s hands. Making things is the artist’s métier. Reflection on the appearance of particular things, and opinions on them, is within an artist’s bailiwick. Continue Reading
Beauty & Accidents of Perception

Nature is terrifying. Aesthetic distance from dread of it increases only in proportion to our mastery over it. Shelter from it frees us to make art of our aesthetic promptings, so easily confused with a spiritual consciousness. It is snowing as I type this. Icicles two and three feet long hang from the gutters. A struggling andromeda outside the front door is bent in two by the weight of ice. My long curving, uphill driveway, treacherous in bad weather, is impassable. Continue Reading
Pilgrim Art

Mortals that would follow me, Love Virtue, she alone is free; She can teach ye how to clime Higher than the Spheary chime. John Milton, “Lydidas” What do you mean, “Pilgrim art”? There wasn’t any. Precisely. There was none as we moderns understand it: a product of leisure and affluence enjoyed largely by spectators. The concept had no hold on their attention. They did not conceive of culture as we do, as a kind of sauce spread like Bechamel over the nexus of values that animate a civilization. Continue Reading