CULTURE: News Weekly
Introducing the gentleman-adventurer
, August 31, 2013
Omne ens est unum, verum, bonum et pulchrum
(All that is, is one, true, good and beautiful)
— the philosophy of the medieval schoolmen.
It often seems that our current world is bathed in banality. Much of the content of the media, television, stage, cinema and so on show us to be a depressed and confused people, allergic to the True, the Beautiful and the Good.
The aim of these columns in future News Weekly issues is to examine this question, to consider the various parts that make up “culture” and to offer suggestions about what is to be done.
I will be your host — a gentleman-adventurer seeking out the best and the worst in the most extreme of places.
It is my view that Beauty still exists, that it is an essential object of humanity’s yearnings; and that, as Beauty is the expression of Truth and Goodness, where Beauty is found, so might Truth and Goodness.
Others have already scribbled makeshift roadmaps to these destinations.
G.K. Chesterton was ardent about conveying the romanticism of cities and ordinary things, and believed that our problem is that we have lost our childish wonder at the world.
Gerard Manley Hopkins composed poetry expressing gratitude for dappled things, and reminded us that God was to be found in the uneven and “imperfect”.
J.R.R. Tolkien saluted the authors of fairy-tales and the infinite sub-creativity of man as Imago Dei.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky found Christ in the prostitute and the madman and the beggar, while seeing the devil in the intelligentsia.
Les Murray shows Australia to be a rich and wonder-filled place, and worthy of love.
These are but some of the best-known individuals who have covered this ground.
The film reviews that I’ve been writing up to now have been miniatures of what is to come. Cinema will still form a major part of my commentary. The cinema remains the dominant medium of our age, the way in which we show ourselves to ourselves. And, of course, much of my more specialised training is film-focussed, so it ought not be wasted.
From the first I should say that I don’t see myself as a mere “conservative”. I’ve little interest in “conserving” those things that are toxic to us as human beings, even if they are enshrined in our history.
Nor am I “progressive”, as I find the idea of the human race “progressing” utterly hilarious. If we can resonate with our forebears in Genesis, or with the characters in The Iliad, does it not seem a little inane to think we’re better than they were? Maybe in terms of our technology, but what about our humanity?
As for politics in general, I will stick with the view of Mr B.A. “Bob” Santamaria (1915-1998), founder of News Weekly, who commented in his autobiography that there is no “perfect” political system; there is just the system under which one lives.
No. I am a man who loves beauty. But I am no “aesthete”. I have always found the creed of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley to be fleetingly attractive, but ultimately vulgar. It reduces the beautiful to the ornamental and celebrates perversity. The aesthetes are cut from the same cloth as the filth-fixated “realists”, but wear it differently. Both lack a grand view of the human condition.
It is this grandeur, this sense of adventure I am looking for. Not in the sense of the thrill-seeker eager for novel “experiences”, but in the sense of the child realising that he can move his hands about, and the “wow!” that results, and the overwhelming desire to share this “wow!” with all.
I will be turning my critical gaze to shallow things, because it is through surfaces that we behold depths. The clothes we wear, the food we eat, the buildings we live in, the things we do — all these say more about what we really believe than all the words we write or say.
Instead of just grumbling about our times, I will show how we are living beautifully and what more can be done. We are all in a war pitted against evil, and we are all on the front lines.
The Enemy has already launched his war-machine; and our part has a guerrilla aspect, so we’ll all be improvising as we go along.
I wouldn’t worry too much, however. Evil is, metaphysically speaking, a “nothingness”, whereas we are a “somethingness”. God Is, and so evil cannot win. But it can make life deucedly difficult!
If you think this outlook is bleak, I ask you:
– Have you seen the sunset glinting off the hair of a pretty girl?
– Have you seen the shadows dance inside an apartment?
– Have you seen the smile of one you love as they look at you?
– Have you laughed with children playing?
Things aren’t hopeless. We just have to see them as they really are.
Amor Vincit Omnia. So may we all embark on wonder-filled travels.
Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).