Intrinsic Beauty #1 – Credo

I’ve started this blog for the purpose of sharing my reviews of great music, which is fair enough – but let’s expand our focus. There’s so much more worth celebrating: creative artists of all kinds (many of them relatively unknown); natural phenomena such as fractals and the golden ratio, etc.; other blogs on worthwhile subjects – of which I will be sharing one each week.

Let’s celebrate Intrinsic Beauty in nature and culture. Or, as my wife more drily puts it, Stuff That’s Nice.

Cranberry Lake, New York

This blog has no other agenda. It is not a worldview, political, corporate or any other kind of tool. Here is my “credo” for this series:

“Intrinsic” is defined as “belonging to an entity by its nature”.

We have a deep hunger – an existential need – for beauty, in the world, and in our daily lives. That is intrinsic to human nature. That’s what attracts us to a nice sunset, to fine music or artwork. That’s what draws us out into nature. The quest for beauty is part of our quest for meaning, without which life is pointless.

Today’s culture has very little to do with beauty. Mainstream, commercial culture has nothing to do with it. We are continually bombarded, swamped, by meaningless, exploitive, degrading ugliness. If you need convincing, a random check of YouTube, any news media, or just about any television channel or movie theater should be proof enough. What passes for culture today is superficial, without substance, without depth.

Online, we can easily find video, photos, and endless, vicious commentary on such sensual delicacies as fistfights, falls resulting in injury (who enjoys watching that?), real-life couples bickering, ritual humiliation of wannabe performers, etc. We can savor a miasma of systematic, dehumanizing degradation. We can relish stupid pet tricks with other humans as the pets, performing for our twisted amusement.

In a word, that’s all poison. There’s no real enjoyment in any of that, because there’s nothing beautiful in it. Cheap laughs (at the expense of others) don’t cut it. They may give us a fleeting, sickening feeling of superiority, but that’s empty.

Flower at Stratford Festival Theatre, OntarioBeauty, on the other hand, nourishes us. Forms of harmony, order, structure, design, patterns – we don’t want to get too technical about it. We know beauty when we see it. But we’re seeing so little of it nowadays that it’s too easy to give up and lapse into cynicism. “Yeah, yeah, whatever – what’s on TV tonight?”

However, it’s not all bad out there. For every 10,000 garbage samples on YouTube there’s something wonderful on Vimeo. There are amazing photos and finely-crafted video clips of natural sights, patterns and phenomena. There’s unbelievably good music, and works in all the other arts, being made by virtual unknowns. Isn’t all that more worth sharing than another thousand painful failures?


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