Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Artists. Art. Life.

Having dated an artist, (and interested in all things philosophical) I found this passage from Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain, amusing:

[of his parents, both artists], "They were in the world and not of it, not because they were saints, but in a different way: because they were artists. The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it."

The philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, which resembles and borrows from Eastern wisdom, culminates in the aesthetic as the overcoming of the will. The will, for Schopenhauer, is none other than the Buddhist 'thirst' (trṣnā), driven by ignorance [of the ideal]. But Schopenhauer lacks the practice, so central to Eastern wisdom, of meditation/yoga. It is through meditation that a transcendence is experienced. Transcendence is at first merely glimpsed, soon firmly grasped, and ultimately made one with the being.

The Beautiful turns us toward the transcendent without providing us the tools to experience it directly. Thus, for the Buddhist, the aesthetic is sublime but not ultimate. This is the same recognition as Thomas Merton makes - art may lift you up, but it alone cannot quench your thirst eternally.

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