April 26, 2009

What is eternal?

"We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams..."

-Ode, by Arthur O'Shaughnessy

I love this poem. But, reading some of the comments on it makes me wonder. They say, "I think this poem really speaks to me." Or, "Don't ask me what this is supposed to mean, but it strikes a chord in me."

If something is meaningful, isn't it meaningful for everyone? If something is true, shouldn't it hold true for everyone?

Every so often, I find myself thinking that a certain sin afflicts me in particular, or a certain poem or song speaks to me in a way that it does to no one else. Kristen and I have referred to these conceptions as "Special Me Complex"- we fool ourselves that we experience something unique. I generally dislike claims that we're something special. Yet, despite the overarching similarities in human beings, I can't deny that we experience things differently.

I know that truth does not change. But is beauty in the eye of the beholder, coming into existence because of human experience? Is it possible for something to be eternally beautiful? Is true beauty something recognizable by everyone?


Hayley said...

Western individualism is based on the lie that each person is special and unique. But we're not. For every Einstein and da Vinci and Pascal there was someone who agreed with them, who inspired them, someone who had similar ideas and fleshed them out. Original thought is non-existent. I've always found citing ideas to be kind of bogus - the only reason there is any illusion of ownership over ideas is because we're incapable of thinking about everything in depth all the time.

Hah, I'm doing that thing where my comment has nothing to do with the post, it's just a self-indulgent ramble on the recognitive process my brain went through when I read the post. :P

I don't think beauty is in the eye of the beholder. People generally love and admire the works of Shakespeare. Why? Because it's beautiful. And people who don't admire it we deem "tasteless." Because I think true beauty (although I have no idea how I'm defining beauty at this point) is transcendent

Michael said...

I get annoyed when people say things "strike a chord" or "touch me", the fact is that if it IS meaningful it should matter to everyone, but not everyone recognizes it. Just as people who think that something is meaningful can be wrong, people can also be wrong about what is meaningless.

I think we all have differing and flawed views on what is meaningful and what is beautiful, which is why people disagree. And some see meaning where others don't (Read: Abstract art)

First thing you said, Hayley...I think you're wrong. Everyone is unique, but we aren't all individually the most important, that is what individualism is based off of, looking out for number one. Everyone DOES have a unique perspective on the universe, but of course we have similar thoughts...most of mine are stolen from Locke, Bastiat, Lewis, etc. etc. Bell didn't ACTUALLY invent the telephone, blah blah blah the point being: There is nothing new under the sun. And yet, at the same time everything is new, because everyone IS unique, and in a way special...that doesn't mean they're more important. If EVERYONE is special than that means that EVERYONE matters.

As for the third paragraph of your comment, Hayley . The question is: do we have the right to call them tasteless? or couldn't we also be just as wrong about what is tasteful? The majority is no good standard for beauty....but yes, I think there is objective beauty

Hayley said...

Everyone does build off everyone else's ideas, Bell didn't invent the telephone, there is nothing new under the sun - all illustrating the validity of my point. People aren't special because of the things they create or the ideas they think up, people are special because they just ARE, because they're supposed to be. (I think we mean the same thing. :P)

It doesn't matter, the important thing is that we recognize a degree of blindness, that they're letting their personal preference dictate what has meaning or beauty. And while scorn isn't a preferable response, we're all prone to some scorn when an objective is made subjective. It's not that the majority is the standard for beauty, just that it helps us see it better. Just like the majority believes killing is wrong points to the existence of objective morality, the majority of Shakespeare enthusiasts points to the existence of objective beauty.

Micah E. said...

I don't think that being special and unique has anything to do with originality.

Everybody is different. Everybody thinks differently, the difference might be slight, but its there. Everybody is loved by God, but God loves us collectively as individuals.

In the realm of creativity and originality, how can we help but be original? Due to being inspired by others, our process of reaching our conclusion will be different than those others. Just because there is nothing new under the sun doesn't mean that we've found it all.

Hayley said...

"Due to being inspired by others, our process of reaching our conclusion will be different than those others." Yes, but that doesn't make the conclusion ours. If Tommy hadn't reached X conclusion, someone else would have. It is not our "originality" that makes us special, it the fact that we were individually created that makes it so.

Art said...

Yes, everyone matters, it's an inherent part of their being.

But we share numerous experiences with others, we have similar thoughts, we aren't the only ones in the universe who can appreciate a certain thing.

I'm unsure how all that impacts the main question in my mind. Is beauty correlated to human experience, or does it exist eternally and transcendentally?

People view and experience beauty differently, just as people have differing ideas of Truth. Yet despite that, Truth is objective, there is a standard for Truth. I would like to believe that is the same way for beauty, but I don't see a standard for beauty laid out anywhere.

Your Friend Andrew said...

I believe there is an objective standard for beauty - namely, God, but it is not as well defined as another attribute of God (truth) is for three reasons:

1. We are a broken race and our reflections of both truth and beauty are bound to be flawed.. This wouldn't be a problem, except that...
2. It isn't spelled out in the Bible as clearly as truth is.

And finally, this is I think the most important point but the hardest for me to articulate:

3. Since we don't fully understand God, we cannot fully understand beauty. It's the same for truth, except when we latch onto truth we can put it into words and spell it out. Usually, that can't be done with beauty, at least not perfectly. We can use words to describe the beauty, but we can't recreate that beauty with words.

Of course, truth cannot be captured perfectly with words either, but it's less of an issue with truth.

Does this answer your question? I know the answer ought to be no, because I can't perfectly capture truth with words, but I hope it struck a chord with you. ;)

I think when someone says that something "struck a chord" with them, they mean (though they wouldn't put it this way) that they recognized it as meaningful although not everyone did. It's true that if something is meaningful it should resonate with everyone, but not everyone accepts truth. It can be denied, and those who are open to the truth are those whom it speaks to.

What I'm trying to get at is that the more of a relationship you have with God, the better idea you will have of what is true and what is beautiful. Some things that you wouldn't consider beautiful before now catch your attention. Because of our lack of exposure to the truth, human beings are basically just dense (guys in particular, of course). It takes time with God to reveal truth and beauty.

As for the semi-off-topic stuff about originality and individualism, I think that people are unique and the fact that there is no original thought doesn't change that. Like Micah said, the difference might be slight, but it's there. If you're only talking about original thought, that's up for debate. But people are different in many other ways.