Monday, September 18, 2006

9.18.06, A Brief Pause in Truth

On the Franky Scale today I probably logged a 6, feeling a moment or two behind myself all day long. There were a few moments, too, when I imagined feeling nauseated — and there is no reason for nausea right now unless it's purely psychosomatic and stems from the fact that chemo starts up again this Thursday. Anticipatory nausea. It's very odd to have the feeling and then almost simultaneously realize what it's about, that my mind produced it so perhaps my mind can eliminate it, and so on. And so I tried working that through. Too early to feel sick, ruins the good days. Otherwise there's little going on physically.

I did decide to try and step up my NCPB procedure, into the last few days of September, but no word yet. Ideally I'll be able to do it on the 27th or 29th, but it looks like I won't know until the scheduler returns tomorrow. It's such a low-risk procedure that I don't feel nervous about any danger. Still it gives me butterflies in anticipation when I wonder about its potential for success. It could be such a boon to have a significant portion of my pain just zipped away, so I quietly go around with my fingers crossed.

As for finishing yesterday's absolutely fascinating post, I'm going to take a cheap way out and only put up one additional paragraph. What follows after that still needs work, especially to be able to explain the notion of the "truth content" of a work of art — as with so many complex ideas, being able to convey it in the simplest possible form is incrdibly demanding. It's an idea I've learned and had kicking around in my head for ten years probably and yet I don't think I've ever really tried to put into very simple terms. Looking at the blank page and knowing that my simple explanation needs to be put down is proving daunting. Thus the fragmented bits and pieces approach to this whole thing. Think of it as a deep thought for the day, just one paragraph so thrilling it might well help you doze off tonight if you see it. With that, it's pasted in below. Till tomorrow.

* * *

Negative aesthetics, then, is the workings and the study of it all not from the point of positivist assertion but from negative critique. Alluded to yesterday. Simply put, the “negative” here is not bad, harmful, or unproductive in the slightest; it’s salutary, good for thinking, open-ended, creative, and tends toward the greatest degree of transparency possible. It’s a type of demystification in the arts, or demythologizing as Weber or Durkheim put talking about Modernity. We progressively shatter the myths and direct claims to truth. The point is not to study and learn “what is beautiful” according to the model of traditional aesthetics, rather it is to understand why a given artwork succeeds or doesn’t, how much truth content it has, and to do that we have to ask questions about historical context, political motivation (qui bono?), economic weight, and ethical value. Most theorists of aesthetics — take Kant as prime example — say that all this is unrelated to beauty, to the sublime, and therefore it must all be ignored and cut out. We're supposed to read a poem or look at a painting in some state of perfect remove, devoid of any personal interest, truly not caring, not being concerned with anything that could be at stake. As a remedy, negative aesthetics works to read all works of art while at the same time remembering how we view the world through a camera obscura. It’s all upside down, inverted, skewed, Alice-and-looking-glass-ed. A methodology, if you will, for getting at the truth content of a work of art.

[again, to be continued]


david said...

Puts me in mind of or in my mind the sense I've always struggled with around and against, that the only true commentary analysis is Wow! or weeping, or a choked back sob. Happened again just last week, when I had been asked to give a 15 minute talk at a Rotary luncheon meeting on 'listening and poetry and translation.' So I brought "Azaleas," by the Korean poet Sowol, "Insomnia," by Elizabeth Bishop, and "The Way I Wait for You," by me. Talked about talking about the Korean poem, and listening to people talk about it, when I asked them to. And then beginning to listen to the poem itself, the vowel sounds, and the inside-out echoes of 'azaleas' and 'departing' (in the original). Bishop's poem is a stunner, because it is beautiful as it unfolds, using her own sort of rhymes and almost insolent doubles, as in "sleep, or" at the end of one line and "sleeper" at the end of the next. But it's the final four words that just take my breath away:


The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she's a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
she'd tell it to go to hell,
and she'd find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down a well

into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.

Mr. Jones said...


What a poem! I'm glad you posted it since my Bishop book is in my office and I keep forgetting to bring it home. I also somehow forget how amazing Bishop can be; I think she has one of the most unique, surprising styles of anybone out there. Then that book One Art, on poetry in general not to mention the poem with that name, there's a whole tome that gets a simlpe "ooh" or "ah" as all you can say to it. -Mr. J.