Timeless Beauty, Changing Times

Timeless Beauty, Changing Times

Frederic Edwin Church's Twilight in the Wilderness. 1860. Cleveland Museum of Art.
Frederic Edwin Church’s Twilight in the Wilderness. 1860. Cleveland Museum of Art.

There are things that should be protected and preserved. Nature. Lakes, rivers, oceans, mountain tops, valleys, blue skies. Protect and defend, preserve. Things that evolve in ways that preserve their timeless beauty, even in the midst of natural, organic change. Things to build foundations upon. Colors, shapes, organic, natural drama. We rest our minds there, within the natural change, seeking the core we can never find, joyfully.

These are things to conserve. But ideologies? Systems? Political schools, artistic schools? If these things do not grow, expand their base, remain open to natural and organic change–and they almost never, ever do–they die inside and they kill the souls of others. They become stagnant like malarial swamps.

Timeless beauty and the justifiably ephemeral. Destroying the first while holding on to the second is a current and past sin that plagues us all. More than youth against age, or the old against the new, it’s a mindset and a worldview that seeks to squeeze the life out of human and natural creations, in the name of . . . . what? Fear? Ironically, possibly, a fear of death in the form of change, which they mistake for the destruction of things that need to be reformed, revised, altered or surpassed in no uncertain terms. They prevent change out of fear that that change means death. A death of their own illusion of power over their world and the world of others.

In short, it’s a mistaken worldview, that does not differentiate between timeless beauty and the logic of evolution. It is a mistaken worldview that can not or will not recognize the difference between the reality of stones and the change they undergo as water passes over them, century after century. Or, better still, between comfort and life.

J.M.W. Turner's Rain, Steam and Speed. 1844. National Gallery, London.
J.M.W. Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed. 1844. National Gallery, London.

Though I have seen it all too many times, I can’t help but be baffled by young people who cling to “conservative” ideologies. Art, music, literature, philosophy, politics and so on. I have tried, but I can’t wrap my mind around this attitude toward the world, especially among the young. When someone is young, they should be filled to the brim with the desire to surpass the old with the new, with their new vision of the new. They should be bursting at the seams to make their mark by changing the things they see, as they protect timeless, natural beauty and the world of nature. They should be minor revolutionaries of the soul, filled with a passion for change.

Some may say that, well, yes, that is the realm of the young. But when you get older, you change, grow “conservative” about things, slow down a bit, take stock of things in a realistic manner. You see the world for what it is, for what it really is, and you become conservative.

I see a massive flaw in this. I see a logical flaw in that acceptance of conventional wisdom. And, I think that the impressions of the young, when they are brimming full with a love of change and a desire to effect change . . . are really the people who see the world realistically and for what it truly is. Evolution is endless. Evolution simply is. Change is endless. To hide from that is not wise or realistic or seeing the world as it truly is.

That said, perhaps the biggest reason why we should not grow more “conservative” as we age is because we continuously see the establishment making mistake after mistake after mistake in all realms. We continuously see those supposedly wise and serious and experienced powers-that-be drive us into ditches, destroy lives, nature, art, harmony and so on. We continuously see them take the world to the brink of disaster, ignore genius, destroy it, prevent its emergence.

In short, to be young and embrace change, to foment change, to foment progress in the arts, in life, in society, is truly the common sensical, the logical, the rational, the eternally intelligent way to go. When we question all authority and push for progressive change, we ride the waves instead of fighting against them. We cease being Yeats’ vision of Cuchulain fighting the water, fighting himself.

 

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