The ugly modern world - Awakening to beauty

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior

I don't have highly-organized thoughts to present here, just ponderings for anyone with whom this resonates.

A 10-minute video will likely over-simplify some things, a few things perhaps over-idealized, but it resonated deeply with me. Prior to finding this video last week some things had been changing in me. I started realizing that there is a general drab feel to my life. I've been longing for more lovely things; nature, music, paintings, poetry, wonder. I listen to Andrea Bocelli's "Time to Say Goodbye" performed in duet with Sarah Brightman and tear up each time. I realized: I often bypass beautiful things, because they are not efficient things, maybe reasoning that they are therefore not the best things. I've come to question that. We want beauty.

Thinking of most office environments... Battleship grey cubes, cheap paintings (if any), plastic or unaesthetic plants. Of course an office is for productivity, not contemplation, but still... isn't there a need for beauty in a productive environment? Might beauty be more necessary to our satisfaction in work than we think? Perhaps the decor and aesthetics of cities like Rome are not efficient, but millennia later they're still attracting tourists.

Why spend weeks and months on a painting? Why sweat to perfectly word a few lines of poetry? What if, like Van Gogh, you sold only one painting in your life, but you must create anyway? We can't bill it, but we love it, and once we read it, see it, and appreciate it, we see that we not only want it, but need it. It's not efficient, but nonetheless vital. Its value proves itself. We are humans, we love beauty, therefore we must have it.

Perhaps we should pick up a cue from Christ, who spoke in music (the Psalms), set forth wisdom in the form of catchy one-liners (Proverbs), displayed his own beauty to us in a poetic love story (Song of Solomon), sets forth stern realities in prose and poetry (Ecclesiastes and Lamentations), and preaches the Gospel in prose, poetry, metaphors, imagery, and rich vocabulary (Isaiah).

In keeping with the video, there is also this portrait below, The Fighting Temeraire by JMW Turner, 1838. It's the retirement of an old battleship, a masterwork in itself, both beautiful and useful, portrayed as an elegant ghost, representing the glories of an age which (from the artist's viewpoint) is now fading. This is reinforced by the sunset. In contrast is the industrial ship hauling it to the harbor, representing the coming of a new age. It's a new age where perhaps things are more efficient and productive, but darker, more bare, more soul-less. Likely, no one in the industrial ship thinks they're losing anything. Opposite the setting sun, a crescent moon (probably meaningful in itself) is rising, welcoming the coming of night. Perhaps there is more money to be made in the industrial age, but maybe part of our souls have been killed off to have it.

As I said... scattered thoughts. Interested in insights from anyone with whom this resonates.

41A277ED-6D64-4067-B4E7-A22352BE1AC7.jpeg
 
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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I feel like I want to chew on this and write something later. In the meantime, here is a simple live recording I made with a violist a few years back that seems appropriate.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member

I don't have highly-organized thought to present here, just ponderings for anyone with whom this resonates.

A 10-minute video will likely over-simplify some things, a few things perhaps over-idealized, but it resonated deeply with me. Prior to finding this video last week some things had been changing in me. I started realizing that there is a general drab feel to my life. I've been longing for more lovely things; nature, music, paintings, poetry, wonder. I listen to Andrea Bocelli's "Time to Say Goodbye" performed in duet with Sarah Brightman and tear up each time. I realized: I often bypass beautiful things, because they are not efficient things, maybe reasoning that they are therefore not the best things. I've come to question that. We want beauty.

Thinking of most office environments... Battleship grey cubes, cheap paintings (if any), plastic or unaesthetic plants. Of course an office is for productivity, not contemplation, but still... isn't there a need for beauty in a productive environment? Might beauty be more necessary to our satisfaction in work than we think? Perhaps the decor and aesthetics of cities like Rome are not efficient, but millennia later they're still attracting tourists.

Why spend weeks and months on a painting? Why sweat to perfectly word a few lines of poetry? What if, like Van Gogh, you sold only one painting in your life, but you must create anyway? We can't bill it, but we love it, and once we read it, see it, and appreciate it, we see that we not only want it, but need it. It's not efficient, but nonetheless vital. Its value proves itself. We are humans, we love beauty, therefore we must have it.

Perhaps we should pick up a cue from Christ, who spoke in music (the Psalms), set forth wisdom in the form of catchy one-liners (Proverbs), displayed his own beauty to us in a poetic love story (Song of Solomon), sets forth stern realities in prose and poetry (Ecclesiastes and Lamentations), and preaches the Gospel in prose, poetry, metaphors, imagery, and rich vocabulary (Isaiah).

In keeping with the video, there is also this portrait below. It's the retirement of an old battleship, a masterwork in itself, both beautiful and useful, representing the glories of an age which (from the artist's viewpoint) is now fading. This is reinforced by the sunset. In contrast is the industrial ship hauling it to the harbor, representing the coming of a new age. It's a new age where perhaps things are more efficient and productive, but darker, more bare, more soul-less. Likely, no one in the industrial ship thinks they're losing anything. Opposite the setting sun, a crescent moon (probably meaningful in itself) is rising, welcoming the coming of night. Perhaps there is more money to be made in the industrial age, but maybe part of our souls have been killed off to have it.

As I said... scattered thoughts. Interested in insights from anyone with whom this resonates.

View attachment 7366
These are lovely, helpful thoughts and observations; I very much appreciate them.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
I feel like I want to chew on this and write something later. In the meantime, here is a simple live recording I made with a violist a few years back that seems appropriate.
I can’t play the file! Maybe a problem or incompetence on my end.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Excellent video. I especially liked this line...
"We pay dearly for bad architecture. A dumb book or song can be shelved and disturb no one. A dumb building will stand defacing the earth and upsetting all who must look at it for more than three-hundred years at least."
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
There are a lot of beautiful pictures and interesting links posted by this account: https://twitter.com/wrathofgnon

Not that I agree with everything, of course, but there's some good curation of intriguing looks at what the medieval world did well and human-scale architecture and urbanism.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I feel like I want to chew on this and write something later. In the meantime, here is a simple live recording I made with a violist a few years back that seems appropriate.
Nicely done piece. I look forward to your thoughts.

There are a lot of beautiful pictures and interesting links posted by this account: https://twitter.com/wrathofgnon

Not that I agree with everything, of course, but there's some good curation of intriguing looks at what the medieval world did well and human-scale architecture and urbanism.
Interesting things on this Twitter account. From the feed:

"Before the International Style (modernism) in architecture, our ancestors knew how to adapt the room heights according to the climate, achieving maximum effect (comfort) for the least effort (energy). Today we trust in the grid and so build 8-9 ft rooms from Bermuda to Reykjavik."

I'm one of those persons who likes to land in different places on Google Maps and see what I get on the street view. Reykjavaik was one of those places. Not all that different from what you see in the US. They remind me of what the video in the OP says, most buildings you see around the world look like they could have been from anywhere, and don't reflect the uniqueness of the place where they are located.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
I'm one of those persons who likes to land in different places on Google Maps and see what I get on the street view. Reykjavaik was one of those places. Not all that different from what you see in the US. They remind me of what the video in the OP says, most buildings you see around the world look like they could have been from anywhere, and don't reflect the uniqueness of the place where they are located.
The observation about the role architecture plays in providing us with geographical bearings was particularly insightful.
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
Have you discovered Roger Scruton yet? Sounds like he would be a useful friend and mentor for you right now. :)
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
A conservative philosopher from England who died recently. There are tons of lectures and interviews with him on YouTube, and he wrote many books.
Yes, here's a short clip of his touching on some of the issues you've highlighted and you can find lots more online:

 
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py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
I'm one of those persons who likes to land in different places on Google Maps and see what I get on the street view. Reykjavaik was one of those places. Not all that different from what you see in the US. They remind me of what the video in the OP says, most buildings you see around the world look like they could have been from anywhere, and don't reflect the uniqueness of the place where they are located.
Yes, modernism doesn't adapt to the environment. Theodore Dalrymple repeatedly takes some very effective and amusing sideswipes at Le Corbusier and his unfortunate school.

By the way, if you find yourself with more appetite for beauty than before try this wonderful recording of Mark Padmore singing Mozart's "Dalla sua pace":
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I feel like I want to chew on this and write something later. In the meantime, here is a simple live recording I made with a violist a few years back that seems appropriate.
Thanks for the recording. Nicely done :)

Did you still have thoughts to share? I relish insights on this matter.
 
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