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High Art and the Soul Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Mon, Sep 5, 2011, 02:20 PM

One of the things Americans should be grateful for is that most can actually experience arts and entertainment fit for kings.  Indeed we don’t think on it much, but the middle class today enjoys an array of distractions that only aristocracy or so-called idle rich enjoyed for centuries past—not counting our technological advantage.  The poor Count of the Old World never had a big screen TV, not even a small screen black-and-white!  Gad, what deprivation.  Still the upper class (and the Church) managed through the years to patronize high art and to bring into existence high Western culture.  Fortunately they found a few devoted and singular talents, whose efforts they would support and encourage. 

For most of history, the upper class and powerful were the only ones with appreciable separation between existence and mere survival to give money to arts, and quite possibly, they were the only ones with an education to develop critical discernment in taste, to conceive of aesthetics (a branch of philosophy), and—for some—to reach for Heaven.  The sculptures by Michelangelo, the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, like the symphonies of Beethoven and plays of Shakespeare—these are testaments to patrons of the arts, as well as to the great masters themselves.  Governments were neither chiefly responsible for development of high art, nor for its expanding reach out to the public.

As market economies grew and wealth spread, more people would become patrons—that is to say, they at least became consumers.  They cast market ballots for taste.  As education and civility spread, more people sought to behold beauty and to make it a recurring part of their lives, to see the concretization of their highest ideals and values carved into stone, painted on canvass, played by an orchestra, sung by an opera virtuoso.  As more folks finished high school and went to college, more people looked on and listened with appreciation and some understanding. 

The disaster of World War I and its aftermath of spiritual crisis saw artistic sensibilities get out of whack, along with politics.  The Great War shattered the old order, prior institutions and prior standards.  The good and bad went out together, like the proverbial baby with the bathwater.  Abstract art, increasingly vogue, became the dominant form; poetry lost not only rhyme, but also all form—becoming a fine psychotherapeutic device for artists, but subjective nonsense to readers.  Truth and Beauty were rendered entirely notional and relative.  Error could be true if you believed it, and ugly could be beautiful to consciousness that invoked a different standard.  And “different” standards were as legitimate as any, since there really was no such thing as a norm—or normal. 

Gosh, I hope and pray we’ve turned the corner on that kind of horse hockey, and indeed, I do expect a renaissance soon.  At least hope springs eternal.  Now obviously, high art won’t displace baseball and other sports as America ’s altogether proper pastime.  Likewise, opera is great but so is bluegrass.  High and Folk cultures shouldn’t and need not compete.  In some ways they are really complementary, perhaps two turns on the same godly phrase—as perfect in their respective contexts.  Maybe they are like apples and oranges too.  It’s nice to have both fruits and both cultures; and anyway, Americans have never been stuck in a single rut—even if it’s high class.  We enjoy a little of everything, the spice of life.  It isn’t just different strokes for different folks—it’s different strokes for the same folks. 

Increasingly, globalization and high-tech infiltrations may force us to be a bit more cosmopolitan and eclectic than our natural predilections would have it.  But we can also turn it to our personal advantage.  Enjoy Chinese food and still have steak-and-potatoes!  Go to the rodeo and to Broadway too.  It’s one of the better things about modernity and a wonderful aspect of the unprecedented plenty we enjoy in this country.  Having cars and pocket money lets us do things.  We can pick and choose, without anybody’s pretense.  We don’t need to feel out of place; we don’t necessarily have to equate all things either.  We simply choose some things because they are good for the soul, not because they are written by dead white males or live two-toed purple midgets with diversity training.  So try a little high art.  Become a patron if you aren’t one already—it’s the American thing to do.                                      



Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford .  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  His forthcoming book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium is scheduled for release in September (iUniverse, Inc., 2011).  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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written by ElHombre , September 06, 2011

"Error could be true if you believed it..."

Wow. Wes has stated the Conservative philosophy and didn't even realize it.

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