(Month of October, Series 2020)
Mere Beauty In Truth (click link for Instagram) is my theory of the Aesthetic. Influenced by the late Sir Roger Scruton I aim to use art, nature, architecture, and other mediums to witness a higher form, reality and truth about life through perception.
Beauty requires us to recognize the ugly, the profane, and the false through a keen sense of what is true beauty i.e. that which strikes a profoundness inside us all putting us at its mercy. We do so by training our heart on the full range of emotions experienced in our lives. Fear, anger, happiness, and anxiety all mean something deeper within us. A friend once explained that to recognize a forgery one must study the real thing in complete and absolute detail. Mere Beauty In Truth is the study of the real thing we call beauty.
My ultimate hope it to show the Transcendence and the Immense of God through beauty and design, the ugly and the broken, so as to help us grasp truth and ultimate reality to the best of our limited ability.
Aesthetic value is not merely art. Art is simply one principled medium of interpretation. We would not necessarily call a person or nature art but each can serve as an expression through a medium. Aesthetics targets the full range of expression through taste, smell, sound, sight, and intuition.
Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse (1903)
Thus did the nymphs in vain caress the boy,
He still was lovely, but he still was coy;
When one fair virgin of the slighted train
Thus pray’d the Gods, provok’d by his disdain,
“Oh may he love like me, and love like me in vain!”
Rhamnusia pity’d the neglected fair,
And with just vengeance answer’d to her pray’r.Ovid Metamorphoses, The Story of Narcissus, Stanza 1. Lines 1-7
At First Glance (Narcissus): Flipping the image, Narcissus (the boy), remains so visually captivated by his own reflection that he fails to see his reflection as drowning.
“Brevity is the soul of wit” holds no meaning for this boy because Narcissus has neither wit nor the brevity to speak beyond his own dominion. Narcissus only cared for himself after being cursed by the goddess of retribution Rhamnusia or Nemesis.
This image has joined a witty meme concerning late modernity’s societal self-obsession with social media.
Awash in a sea of images humanity floats along the digital sea of instagram, facebook, youtube, or twitter without any physical, mental, or spiritual substance. People insult in ways they never would in person. They cancel and delete without concern of what it means to shut out voices opposite their own. Or worse they spread malice for millions to see. Too wrapped up in their own identity, their “truth”, unable to see beyond an altered state of pride that exports filtered images to hide reality for a few more likes. Modern man and Ancient Greece fair little in their differences.
And over-heated by the morning chace,
Narcissus on the grassie verdure lyes:
But whilst within the chrystal fount he tries
To quench his heat, he feels new heats arise.
For as his own bright image he survey’d,
He fell in love with the fantastick shade;
And o’er the fair resemblance hung unmov’d,
Nor knew, fond youth! it was himself he lov’d.Ovid Metamorphoses, The Story of Narcissus, Stanza 2. Lines 8-15
Still o’er the fountain’s wat’ry gleam he stood,
Mindless of sleep, and negligent of food;
Still view’d his face, and languish’d as he view’d.
At length he rais’d his head, and thus began
To vent his griefs, and tell the woods his pain.
“You trees,” says he, “and thou surrounding grove,
Who oft have been the kindly scenes of love,
Tell me, if e’er within your shades did lye
A youth so tortur’d, so perplex’d as I?Ovid Metamorphoses, The Story of Narcissus, Stanza 4. Lines 1-9
Narcissists hide from reality by obscuring the world through a darkly lens; their world, their views, their way of life are the only means of truth. Narcissus obsession turns to lust as he lays half naked in the sun. Ironic considering he took his petasos (sun hat) off prior too gazing into the water likely representing further the lustful madness that he succumbed. But the petasos is within arms reach, only that the boy chooses to beg the trees for shade instead of working towards ending his own displeasure. Pleasure and decadence combined are extremely intoxicating in this way leaving their victims lethargic. Wearing a Laurel wreath, a symbol of triumph but of what? Perhaps it is he whom has been conquered? His own reflection representing the defeat and death over himself.
Key Point: Narcissus is the purest example of narcissism, textbook definition.
Narcissus now his sixteenth year began,
Just turn’d of boy, and on the verge of man;
Many a friend the blooming youth caress’d,
Many a love-sick maid her flame confess’d:
Such was his pride, in vain the friend caress’d,
The love-sick maid in vain her flame confess’d.Ovid Metamorphoses, The Transformation of Echo, Stanza 3. Lines 1-6
Once, in the woods, as he pursu’d the chace,
The babbling Echo had descry’d his face;
She, who in others’ words her silence breaks,
Nor speaks her self but when another speaks.
Echo was then a maid, of speech bereft,
Of wonted speech; for tho’ her voice was left,
Juno a curse did on her tongue impose,
To sport with ev’ry sentence in the close.
Full often when the Goddess might have caught
Jove and her rivals in the very fault,
This nymph with subtle stories would delay
Her coming, ’till the lovers slip’d away.
The Goddess found out the deceit in time,
And then she cry’d, “That tongue, for this thy crime,
Which could so many subtle tales produce,
Shall be hereafter but of little use.”
Hence ’tis she prattles in a fainter tone,
With mimick sounds, and accents not her own.Ovid Metamorphoses, The Transformation of Echo, Stanza 4. Lines 1-18
This love-sick virgin, over-joy’d to find
The boy alone, still follow’d him behind:
When glowing warmly at her near approach,
As sulphur blazes at the taper’s touch,
She long’d her hidden passion to reveal,
And tell her pains, but had not words to tell:
She can’t begin, but waits for the rebound,
To catch his voice, and to return the soundOvid Metamorphoses, The Transformation of Echo, Stanza 5. Lines 1-8
The nymph, when nothing could Narcissus move,
Still dash’d with blushes for her slighted love,
Liv’d in the shady covert of the woods,
In solitary caves and dark abodes;
Where pining wander’d the rejected fair,
‘Till harrass’d out, and worn away with care,
The sounding skeleton, of blood bereft,
Besides her bones and voice had nothing left.
Her bones are petrify’d, her voice is found
In vaults, where still it doubles ev’ry sound.Ovid Metamorphoses, The Transformation of Echo, Stanza 6. Lines 1-10
At First Glance (Echo): Fair skinned with Red hair representing courage and sensuality; being a nymph Echo personifies nature itself. Naked, a virgin mesmerized by a boy, the Nymph Echo could only hope that Narcissius would take notice of her gaze and appearance but to no avail.
In his upside down world, she remains right-side up yet also lacking a depth of vision. Beautiful, full of youth Echo was the victim of the goddess Juno’s or Hera the wife of Zeus wrath after protecting Zeus due to his risque behavior of spending time with the winsome Nymphs. A curse left her only to speak the last words spoken to her hence the befitting name Echo. Nevertheless, this young woman fell vain for a boy beyond saving. Love never reciprocated, only fondly held silently afar. Desire drove her equally mad.
Key Point: Echo takes the form of despair.
At First Glance (Nature): Worthy of final note is the forest, the stream, the pond, and all the surrounding landscape billowing around two disillusioned youths. How often do we forsake natures beauty for vain escapes? Sacred release was a glimpse away for Echo and Narcissus which may have been the imperative palate cleanser to break them from their spell. Even then after Narcissus drowns he becomes a Daffodil flower, a flower associated with rebirth, but I believe the flower represents his youthfulness, beauty, and final death.
Key Point: From dust we came and dust we shall return; the earth is our birthing place and our tomb.
She saw him in his present misery,
Whom, spight of all her wrongs, she griev’d to see.
She answer’d sadly to the lover’s moan,
Sigh’d back his sighs, and groan’d to ev’ry groan:
“Ah youth! belov’d in vain,” Narcissus cries;
“Ah youth! belov’d in vain,” the nymph replies.
“Farewel,” says he; the parting sound scarce fell
From his faint lips, but she reply’d, “farewel.”
Then on th’ wholsome earth he gasping lyes,
‘Till death shuts up those self-admiring eyes.
To the cold shades his flitting ghost retires,
And in the Stygian waves it self admires.Ovid Metamorphoses, The Story of Narcissus, Stanza 7. Lines 1-12
For him the Naiads and the Dryads mourn,
Whom the sad Echo answers in her turn;
And now the sister-nymphs prepare his urn:
When, looking for his corps, they only found
A rising stalk, with yellow blossoms crown’d.Ovid Metamorphoses, The Story of Narcissus, Stanza 8. Lines 1-5
Source: Ovid. Metamorphoses. Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al. http://classics.mit.edu/Ovid/metam.3.third.html