Recognitions: Artistic, Disciplined

What if Plato really is the author of all of the epigrams that could be attributed to him?  If he wrote longingly over men, how is this to be reconciled with Plato's Socrates who in the Phaedrus argues against physical contact in the erastes/eromenos relationship (that of the lover/student).  The soul is to be loved above the body; what is more, the passions are to be bridled - this is a recurrent theme in Plato, albeit via Socrates, who is even more adamant on this point in Xenophon (e.g. Memorabilia 1.3.8-15).  The theme is revisited too in the Republic, where physical contact again denotes lack of restraint.  Thus we return to the epigrams, one of which in true Herrick fashion attempts to woo the beloved, but if rejected, harkens to the swift passing of beauty (CURFRAG.tlg-0059.7).  Of course, they may be spurious, but if they are his we are left to wonder about the distance between ideals and reality.  I find that when speaking to contemporaries about the "classics" one must explain that ideals are not so much destinations as they are direction ("true" North) for the coordinates we draw for the transit of our passing lives.
Which is not to say that some people aren't able to reach that ideal, or get very near to it.  So how much is one to try to reach it providing of course that one concedes to its existence (we admit it is contested)?  If some of the more mundane epigrams are really Plato's, one may see the discrepancy between ideal and practice, or at least a different emotional level in prose and poetry.
The possibilities are interesting, though I do not really see the epigrams as obviously Plato's.  He had his academy, the remains of which I will share photos of soon: such a position, to be in the public light at that level surely constrained him - or did he indulge in the mores of the time also as a means of assimilation?  Again, though, one really does not want to be party in work that seeks to "humanise" those humans who through gracious exercise really did reach another level which can look impossible to the uninitiated.
That said, and from where I am standing, I am interested in the crossroads between a throw-it-to-the-wind personality of soulfulness and the disciplined, analytical personality of what Prof. "Bob" Thurman called in one of his lectures scholastic spirituality (in the West, we remember that study was once the appendix to the monastery: sharing the same values of self-denial for service). 
I can see "Bob's" smile and although I cannot remember his answers, I think as I try to sort these thoughts out of Gadamer, and what he wrote about play.  Before embarking on that, I'd just like to say that today we may be conflicted about informal play since so much of what should be private ends up getting shared if not via social platforms then through other formal outlets.

Gadamer writes in The Relevance of the Beautiful (ed. Robert Bernasconi) that "play appears as a self-movement that does not pursue any particular end or purpose so much as movement as movement" and notes Aristotle described self-movement as the most fundamental characteristic of living beings (De anima 1.3 and 1.4.405b33-408a).  It is relevant that Aristotle is cited, because he, after all, is the one who defends, say, tragedy, whereas Plato bans it being showed, at least to just any public, in the Republic.  Aristotle seems more interested in the process of participation (think of On Poetry).  And Gadamer writes about tragedy and comedy: that in the traumatic experience of the tragic and liberating laughter of the comical, "a deep and disturbing encounter with ourselves, overcomes us. In this experience, any distinction between play and actuality, appearance and reality, is eliminated."
In other words, there is something mystical about the mirror that may be offered through art.  In Aristotle, it can transcend the borders of genre. To cite one of the spurious epigrams of Plato: "Lais offers this mirror to the Paphian because she has no wish to see herself as she is, and cannot see herself as she was." (CURFRAG.tlg-0059.11) 
What if we could see ourselves as we are, and we have changed, may be the next question.  Plato's Socrates in the Republic says, "when you have said a thing stand by it, or if you shift your ground change openly and don't try to deceive us" (345b). 
There is a risk in being wrong, in "the more anthropological dimension that bestows permanence" (Gadamer).  The permanence in the spurious epigram cited above is the vision of Aphrodite (referred to as Paphian, which increases the likelihood the epigram is not Plato's) portrayed in thankless pose.  Something about who we can be but don't want to be remembered as.  Something that philosophy warns us of, but the soulfulness of deep question drives one to its coordinates.
Maybe what I am saying is that for some of us, we need all the paintings, the music, the poems, to first fill us like mistakes before we realise the problem inherent in some destinations.  At the same time, we cannot be liberated by renouncing memory, neither ours nor that precious reserve of others' experience.

Gadamer writes:
the penetrating gaze of Mnemosyne, the muse who maintains and retains, marks us out.  It was one of the basic intentions of my exposition to show that in our relationship with the world and in all our creative labors - forming or cooperating in the play of form as the case may be - our accomplishment lies in retaining what threatens to pass away.
But he also explains that it is the symbolic that "meaningfully addresses us in the play of form" that comes together in the concrete work:  "every act of recognition of something has already been liberated from our first contingent apprehension of it and is then raised into ideality."
Recognition can stop the flow of time by bringing out something of permanence.  But how much trial and error is necessary to figure out the symbols worthy of the sacrifice of time: how many narratives chatter on without consequence in the mind of the every-day man?  Surely it is art that helps this recognition to occur, by exposing self, in the process of discovery, to both that which is worthy of Mnemosyne and that which is not.  It is also recognition that ties art to study, to my mind at least.  I want both of them to solve the puzzle of my life and existence.
Part of this experience cannot be answered by idea or ideal alone because those coordinates are there to be guiding a vessel.  That vessel, if it comes to pursue φιλοσοφία, may contain wanting poems or outbursts of passion.

 Brush en lieu of watermark: Ewansim's tape at DeviantART.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License