Friday 17 July 2020

Art - Intuitively (or, What's Good for Me)

I was pretty much a 'culture vulture' as a young man; which entailed gobbling-up the books, music, art, philosophy etc. that was regarded as canonical - or else, at least, 'relevant' and 'important' to my high-status contemporaries.

Overall, it was not good for me, and was a corrupting experience.

Because, on engaging with some artefact - for example watching a movie, or reading a novel, viewing some architecture - I would often feel a strongly negative impression being made upon me. I did not like the author, I was averse by what was being said, or the way it was being said. I felt badness...

On the one hand there was an apparent consensus of scholars and critics saying that This Is Good Stuff (even 'essential') - and on the other hand there was this hard-to-express feeling that this was Not Good, that it was of malign intent or effect...

So far as I remember, this intuitive feeling was always correct, and the impressions I got were valid; and sooner-or-later I would regret having 'given-myself' (by attention, concentration, and openness) to such and such a play, poem, philosophy, movie, artwork or whatever it might be.

Sooner-or-later I would need to dis-engage and un-learn; in order to escape from the distortion and corruption that had been seeded in me.

Maybe this is the proper and underlying source of the 'modern' way of skating-across and sampling the deluge of 'information' that comes to us each day? Perhaps what we are supposed to do is develop consciousness of these (maybe subtle, maybe fleeting) feelings of aversion (and the rarer opposite ones of validation and attraction) - and thereby be able to disengage immediately, before much harm is done?

This reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson's self-described method of reading by skimming and homing-in on 'lustres. He warned against expending too much attention and effort on what we read; because most of it was not worth it; and also because the giving of oneself was stultifying to one's own creativity. Emerson said one ought to be reading mainly in order to 'start your own team' - that is: we should read (etc) in order to fuel our own creative activities.

Such practice leads-on-to a way of dealing with the mass media and the propaganda that cannot be avoided. Of course we should limit our exposure to it; but essentially media propaganda cannot nowadays be avoided - therefore perhaps we ought to engage with it in the skimming spirit recommended by Emerson?

And we should also develop our own awareness of these evaluative intuitions that so quickly (and reliably) arise from our true selves to tell us of the nature of what we are reading; tell us of its ultimate sources; tell us what side it is on?

This stance mostly works to unmask the foul intent behind fair words; but also may lead us to the (few) good people (i.e. people on the side of Good) who are nowadays seldom concentrated in any particular place; but who are thinly-distributed - and sometimes in unexpected places.

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