To walk the Way of Beauty and practice True Beauty aspires to transcend our culture’s ingrained notions of “taste.”
Taste, as used here is defined in the dictionary as:
- the sense of what is fitting, harmonious or beautiful; the perception and enjoyment of what constitutes excellence in the fine arts, literature, fashion, etc.;
- the sense of what is seemly, polite, tactful, etc., to say or do in a given social situation
- one’s personal attitude or reaction toward an aesthetic phenomenon or social situation, regarded as either good or bad
- the ideas of aesthetic excellence or of aesthetically valid forms prevailing in a culture or personal to an individual
It is this last definition that concerns me, that I think of as the crippling aspect within the concept and the notion of ‘taste.’ It is this approach that I believe needs to be unlearned in order to disable our short-cut thinking and become more easily aware of True Beauty.
Think of what you have found beautiful, and perhaps sought to elevate, honor, call attention to – “Wow! That’s so…uplifting/breathtaking/ beautiful!”… fill in your word for the experience, for we have all experienced such a moment. Whether the “that” in question is a particular sight, color, sound, touch, flavor, fragrance, insight, understanding, experience or combination of some or all of the above…. it doesn’t so much matter.
Whole books have been written defending, attacking and/or defining the notion of “taste” in aesthetics. Immanuel Kant, in his “Critique of Judgment” (1928) did a fine job elucidating the subjective and universal nuances in the judgment of aesthetics. David Hume went so far as to create standards for taste, and “wrote the book,” literally. Taste, frankly, shouldn’t be much more than a hiccup in the cosmology of True Beauty. Beauty in our new operating paradigm here is not concerned with ideas of rigid standards of “taste” except in so far as it becomes a stumbling block or a barrier for those attempting to practice True Beauty. Hence, we must attempt some unlearning.
At some points along the way this has been difficult for me. Because believe me, I was brought up with a healthy dose of one must have Taste with a Capital “T.”
This concept of taste is worthy to bring to the discussion because it is an eminent example of the kind of breach that can separate us from (true) Beauty. Separation occurs when there is the Observer and the Observed, the Maker and the Object as Other. When the idea of “taste” goes beyond simple discernment for personal choice and becomes an ethos that defines a group — indeed labels one as belonging to a certain class or level of education — then it is a very effective tool of separation.
True Beauty connects, unifies — it does not create separation.
David Hume was writing in the 1700s. There is much worthy observation and philosophy in his treatise. But his exploration into and need to develop standards for taste instructs me in the degree to which our understanding of Beauty had become departmentalized, rationalized by then. And, eventually, trivialized.
Why? I think it is because Hume’s stance, in essence, is that one’s level of taste is based on class, education, and experience; that without these one is most likely to be vulgar and – the worst – common. That through educated experience one learns judgment and discernment. There is truth in this; it reflects the evolution of understanding. In my ethos, however, this would be just fine if the discourse and its implications were strictly limited to the individual and the individual’s own choices, and not broadcast as a levels of societal worthiness, acceptability and – Beauty.
I take exception to shortcuts of perception, recipes – “standards of taste” that have in practice become “coda of beauty.” While I can appreciate the probable intention behind Hume’s book, the resultant elitism and narrowing of aesthetics have had consequences that have proved to be at least equally counterproductive.
The concept of Taste as a Definitor is the child of a civilization that has become so dependent upon appearance, the surfaces of perception and comparative values, with little to no regard for intrinsic and/or deeper values so it can no longer rely on the honest and intuitive senses of its individuals.
Further, such “standards” can be a code to create and preserve a static and deadened place-holder, so there is mere repetition of “beauty” based on a long-ago Hellenic discovery — a sad, time-worn standard. The freshness of beauty no longer exists.
Suffice to say for our purposes, Taste as an arbiter of Beauty does not need to enter further into a discussion of True Beauty. If my reader disagrees, I would love to hear from you.
Well, Lou has just come in and has been reading over my shoulder again. “Jeesh!” he says, “What I want to taste is my lunch! You still sitting here hitting those keys?! Come eat something with me!”
I laugh and tell Lou I will, I will. And I silently bless my own good taste that brought his bright light into my life.
Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart
~ Kahlil Gibran