1.08.2007

thinking out loud in logical extremes

or,

the sloppiness continues

my last post included the following statement:

"art as a reflection of life should, i think, include the masses as equals; poets are no more human than their brethren."

which elicited the following response:

"a few nights ago, my brother boldly stated that his mind is significantly more active than most people's minds. i don't know about [my brother] (though he's probably right), but would this not be true of good artists? the work of an artist is a function of his or her long, reflective gazes at the world and its happenings, and deep thoughts. for working towards unveiling truths, comprehending the intricacy and depth of human existence, and ascending to a higher perspective, shouldn't the artist enjoy an elevated status above the masses? there is undoubtedly a sharp contrast between the mind of a good artist and that of an ordinary person who is probably dulled and distracted by, among many other things, television and video games. i don't believe this devalues the perspecive [sic] and range of human emotion, from pain and suffering to pleasure and joy, of the ordinary person--a good artist possesses acuity in this regard. experiencing life is one thing, but communicating the experience is another."

first off, thanks for calling me out on this one, j. second, let me clarify, because, while my comments were not quite on the mark, i don't think my idea misses entirely. allow me some rambling:

while i am not suggesting that ordinary people (read: those other than poets, writers, thinkers, etc.) should be viewed as having similar powers of insight into the world that surrounds them, there is still something rather askew in the accepted writer/reader relationship. granted, communicating unique and deep insights is not a skill possessed by many. indeed, the common man should rarely attempt it, and only with supervision. but i am recently gripped by this question: to whom is directed the insight to which writers are privy? the audience must certainly be more than writers and their intellectual ilk (lest intellectual masturbation be the only goal); the common man is implied as a member of the audience. the question morphs, then, becoming more subtle: the common man, as audience member, while not gifted with vast perceptive powers, is at least in possession of certain receptive abilities. that is, when insights of unusual depth are presented to him (the common man), he is capable of understanding, if not the intricacy contained within them, at least the fact that delicate intricacies are present and at work, and should be able to, if he tries, glean something useful for himself. that is the connect between the two groups, writers and commoners. such a connection seems to me to be akin to a sexual relationship, both consensual and mutually beneficial. neither party should be considered lesser than the other, merely differently-abled and hardwired to fill different roles.

though my language above belies my intention, here is the thrust of my thinking: it is not wholly appropriate, at if one desires consistency within our absurdly egalitarian cultural mindset, to discuss the two groups in terms of class. it would make more sense to think of the Gospel shepherd who loved each of his sheep equally, caring for them tenderly and leading them to nourishment, himself gaining from the relationship (wool to sell/wear, meat to sell/eat). similarly, the writer/reader relationship might be better seen as symbiotic than parasitic. certainly one organism appears stronger than the other, but both are nourished.

ah, but i have not addressed my assertion that, in order to be truly egalitarian, while the common man should by no means dictate the direction of the arts, he should yet be an equal in some sense. that is because i do not know how this would work. perhaps because in literature, the separation should be more pronounced, giving a kind of equal-but-separate feeling to the relationship between writer and reader (i almost don't want to use that phrase, reversed though it is from its original form, but it is the best i can find).

perhaps one group is stronger than the other, perhaps one group is more fit to lead than the other. perhaps not. bear in mind that i do not necessarily agree with everything i've just written. rather, my aim is exploring something closer to the logical extreme of the culture in which i find myself.

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coincidentally, i think a certain class-laden division is implied in the categories/definitions of writers/readers. as emerson put it,

"Yet, in our experience, the rays or appulses have sufficient force to arrive at the senses, but not enough to reach the quick, and compel the reproduction of themselves in speech. The poet is the person in whom these powers are in balance, the man without impediment, who sees and handles that which others dream of, traverses the whole scale of experience, and is representative of man, in virtue of being the largest power to receive and to impart." (Essays and English Traits, X. The Poet, paragraph 3)


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i should point out, too, that i realize no one is saying our culture is truly egalitarian. people do seem to think, however, that it would be a good way to be. i disagree. so long as sin infects the world, so long as people are not all on the same page, so to speak, we are forced into a strange game of twister, trying to create equality in certain areas (to appease the common man, of course, for it is from the common that the elite derive power) while retaining iron-clad control in others. it is foolishness, and it is why i enjoy exploring logical extremes (or things resembling such extremes, anyway).

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