Sunday, November 24, 2013

On our addiction to transcendence

Wagner's addiction to transcendence, satirized by Nietzsche:
It is easier to compose bad music than good music. Yet, what if it were more profitable, too? ... Beauty has its drawbacks [Das Schöne hat seinen Haken]: we know that. Wherefore beauty then? ... Beauty is difficult... Let us slander, my friends, let us slander, however much in earnest we may otherwise be about the ideal, let us slander melody! Nothing is more dangerous than a beautiful melody! ... Never let us acknowledge that music "may be a recreation"; that it may "enliven"... Why not rather the large-scale, the sublime, that which moves masses? ... "Whoever stuns us is strong; whoever elevates us is divine; whoever makes us wonder vaguely is profound."— Let us make up our mind then, my friends in music: we do want to stun them, we do want to elevate them, we do want to make them wonder vaguely. That much we are capable of. -

Our society needs to get over the desire to be dazzled--Nietzsche understood this clearly 130 years ago. For Nietzsche, beauty is NOT primarily transcendent. Beauty is the difficult marriage of the transcendent with the immanent.

Unfortunately, our society has not heeded his advice. We have only accelerated our addiction, which, due to market competition for funding, has spread to every field. The easiest, and therefore best economic strategy, to receive funding is to dazzle the customer/donor/viewer.

The need for transcendence--the need to dazzle our intuition--is understandable as emotionally it is extremely addicting. Jung even fell for it in his theory of synchronicity. Jung says to use rational judgment to survive, and save intuition for our "opus magnum" of individuation, aka writing our personal mythology.

The problem with this is that the search for synchronicities/dazzlement/etc is necessarily a competitive one. The solution is to bring the rational judgment and artisitic intuition together. Marry the opposites. Divorce ourselves from the "prince" within us who demands to be dazzled, and focus that energy on cultural relationships, which are potentially more rewarding than ego pursuits, anyway.

pt. 2 here