Monday, March 10, 2008

And another thing

Recently I had the experience of centering clay on a potter's wheel for the first time. It was remarkable: the clay feels all wobbly going around, and then all of a sudden it doesn't. Bam, it's still. Now, we know from M. C. Richards that this is a metaphor for everything. Fine. But the point is, it's not just a metaphor. I told a friend about it and I commented on how nice it is that with everything that involves grace, there's a sweet spot. But it's not just with movement that this is so. It's the same with writing, too. And humor. The thing that is interesting about the regular sweet spot, as far as I'm concerned, is that it's a physical instance of the way in which things that are good, aesthetically, don't have the fingerprints of self all over them. They may well bear the mark of the author or creator's style, but within those characteristic parameters, the person's self doesn't intrude. When it does, it's like a note played or sung off key. What is it that makes it be that that's the way things are? That the world as we experience it seems to be structured on all fronts by this aesthetic requirement that the capacities of self be applied in such a way that they dissolves into, and/or are subject to the form of, the activity or object toward which they are directed? I think that this is what Aristotle and Plato both think the divine is: something like the laws of beauty. I don't mean prettiness. I don't know if I agree, but I'm pretty sure that I think that there's something to the felt objectivity of the requirement.

3 comments:

JC said...

Beauty is t-Ruth, t-Ruth beauty: that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

(It should always be kept in mind that this gnomic remark, to which exception can be taken (though not in this form), isn't exactly Keats talking, but the Grecian Urn itself, who may be unrelaiable

littlejoke said...

I met M. C. Richards on two occasions (the first when she sat next to me at a Joseph Campbell lecture, the second when she visited the art professor with whom I'd worked on editing an anthology)...but in all these years of hanging around potters and ceramists I've never actually turned a vessel.

Do you know Crispin Sartwell's Six Names of Beauty? Crispin is something of a crusty guy but his defense of beauty is, for me, spot on.

"Man is in love, and loves what vanishes." (Yeats, of course.)

And yet beauty is somehow related more to geometry than to ephemerality; we love as many objects with the (relative) permanence of stone or stars as we do with fragility and ephemerality. I've written a fair amount about this in the past, but I've grown rusty with regard to recalling my reflections.

t-ruth said...

littlejoke,

I don't know Crispin Sartwell's book, though the title looks good. What's he say?

What have you said?