Regular readers may recall my pivot from searching for truth to searching for beauty. Philosophy has been wonderful for teaching me how to pose questions and how others have framed their explorations of them. But philosophy works best in the spaces where answers are most uncertain. Once we start finding answers, we tend to stop thinking of those questions as philosophical and place them in the domain of whatever new science came up with answers. I’m taking a view that the answers to my questions can only be ones I devise for myself and that it will be the pursuit of beauty that leads me to them.
How’s that search going? Some highlights:
I mentioned the Multaka project in my last post. I love this example of community-level, considered, intentional empathy. When we open ourselves to those who are different from us, we can learn greater human truths in return.
Over coffee with a friend of five years, we shared what we’d been grappling with, learning, and thinking about lately. And I thought back to when we first met. We talk differently. We’ve had our trials and lessons. They say your childhood friendships are the strongest because those were your formative years. But adult years are formative as well. May we never stop growing.
I spent a lot of time this summer exploring the nature on offer around me. This included hikes among woods, stone trails, grand waterfalls, gardens, arboretums, and lakes. Each experience with its own mood, each with its own colors, each with its own sound and silence. But the message I took was consistent. There is life and change everywhere. None will ever know us. Most will never notice. We’re only small parts of a whole. The response is humility and the release of much burden.
I went to see a lot of art. Some of it banal, some of it difficult, some of it pleasant, some of it wondrous. My reactions told me about myself. I bring my history to the art I see. I take the art I’ve seen to the life I experience. I took a wonderful class on Swann’s Way, the first book in Proust’s magnus opus. The importance of art is one of several major themes. Artifice can often distill truth more clearly than realism or reality. An abstract form can conjure a mood, a reaction, a memory—are these not as real as a face or a landscape? There are personal truths in art waiting for your engagement to be unleashed. For example, from the below figure in the ground: Proximate, purposeful emptiness is more imposing on a person than a parallel, positive-space presence. There’s a resonance here with Buddhism’s second noble truth.
Speaking of Proust. There’s so much beauty to unpack there. I have to reserve it for another day.