Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Figuring Things, in and out

The poet John Keats, begins his poem, "Endymion," with the arresting observation:
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness--

Given the hours of gaping, gawking, and staring you've put in at various museums and galleries, featuring displays of such things as oil and watercolor paintings, drawings, ceramics, statuary, etching, and photography from a diverse menu of times and cultures, you've spent as many years since reading the entire poem in agreement with the sentiments expressed.

You're aware of persons who are not familiar with that poem, knowing the first line without knowing its author or the larger context to which it is attached. Some years back, you became aware that the poem, itself, is a thing and, yes, it extends the truth of the poem by demonstrating that the line and the entire poem are things of beauty. It is your nature to chew over Keats' assessments and your response to them. 

Beauty is an assigned quality. For that matter, lack of beauty is also an assigned judgment. A thing you consider beautiful or its opposite are judgments you make about the thing, coloring your regard or disregard for it, thus effecting your outer and inner postures.

Brief digression here for a disclosure: Keats is one of your favorite poets. Even more than the likelihood of you quoting "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," you are even more likely to quote another line of his from his poem, "The Eve of St. Agnes, in fact, the third line, "  The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass..."  Added truth to tell, you're also fond of his poem, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," where there is at least one line you are bound to bring forth after a modest quantity of a pinot noir or medoc.

Thus you have here for starters three things in the form of poems and three additional things , individual lines from the poems, making at least six things, all of which, by your definition, and with a nod of respect to John Keats, are things of beauty. 

Until your recent preoccupation with focusing on such things as meaning, the meaning of the process of meaning, things, and the nuanced and complex relationships between people and things, you were more likely to have written at greater length and depth about beauty than about things.

At this point in your investigations and musings, things, even though they have tangible qualities beyond the basic ones of length, width, depth, and shape, get something tangible from their association with humans. They are often put to one or more specific uses, displayed, maintained, or merely kept in some circumstance indicative of their status. Humans assign values to many things, these values ranging from monetary to artistic to usefulness.

If judgments will allow themselves to be classified as things--what, in fact, is a judgment if not a thing?--they, too invite not only classifications but attitudes. You, for example, may judge a particular individual, through his or her behavior, foolish or prideful or funny or empathetic. 

In similar fashion, you may judge a human not by his or her judged qualities (things, remember?) but rather by the things with which they surround themselves, ranging from clothing and jewelry to paintings, music collections, statuary, automobiles, animals.

Tell me a word is not a thing or that certain words are better at defining a meaning or intention than others, while yet other words are inoffensive or inspirational. Much of what you do for outer and inner living is related to words and their effects on you and others. Thus is your reason for being and living bound in a curious equation you are trying to understand as, indeed, you have spent so much of your life, in one way or another, trying to figure things out.

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