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Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 01:15 AM CDT
Recent article in The New Criterion
Future tense, IX: Out of the wilderness
by Charles Murray
Murray sets out to answer the question: "Given what we know about the conditions that led to great accomplishment in the past, what are the prospects for great accomplishment in the arts as we move through the twenty-first century?" In particular, he focuses on the U.S., but refers to Europe, claiming that the U.S. is gravitating toward certain European social patterns that impede the growth of artistic excellence. Gaahhh! [Read the article for specifics.]
His conclusion is that, for the near term, "… we have the infrastructure for a major stream of accomplishment, but not the culture for one."
So, what's missing from American culture?
"… the problem is that the artistic elites have been conspicuously nihilist for the last century, and the rest of the culture has recently been following along. [The] belief that one’s life has a purpose—belief in a personal God who wants you to use your gifts to the fullest—has been declining rapidly throughout society, and the plunge has steepened since the early 1990s. The rejection of traditional religion is especially conspicuous among intellectual and artistic elites."
Well, it's like this:
"[Historically,] a major stream of human accomplishment is fostered by a culture in which …. people believe that life has a purpose …." This belief leads to the "motivation to take on the intense and unremitting effort that is typically required to do great things, " and "carries with it a predisposition to put one’s talents in the service of the highest expression of one’s vocation."
He concludes that "religiosity is indispensable to a major stream of artistic accomplishment."
Holy Chr … Oh, sorry.
"By religiosity I do not mean going to church every Sunday. Even belief in God is not essential. Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism are not religions in the conventional sense of that word—none postulates a God—but they partake of religiosity as I am using the word, in that that they articulate a human place in the cosmos, lay out understandings of the ends toward which human life aims, and set standards for seeking those ends."
For the faithless, have faith that
"A secular version of this framework exists, and forms a central strand in the Western tradition: the Aristotelian conception of human happiness and its intimate link with unceasing effort to realize the best that humans have within them."
So, what do you say?
My music is much better than it sounds.
Location: Somewhere In Time, USA
Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 03:23 AM CDT
I think there's *some* truth to this theory — as it may apply to *some* people. However, I also believe there's an innate part of the human psyche that impels us to seek out the types of activities and endeavors that resonate with each of us. When one discovers the one(s) that capture(s) the imagination, they are naturally inspired to explore those interests — with a passion.
This creative urge, or Muse, as we have become accustomed to calling it, seems to surface independent of religious influence or belief.
If you turn the author's proposition around and ask... of all the billions of people who do sincerely believe in an afterlife, how many actually achieve "the highest expression of one’s vocation?"
In truth, the largest percentage gravitate toward the comfortable Middle. That's just a statistical fact of life. Some people, for a variety of reasons, are more motivated to achieve than others. Their impetus, their purpose, emerges from within — not without.
This is not to say that religious or philosophical beliefs cannot add another dimension to this phenomenon. There are many recorded cases that clearly indicate they can, indeed, do just that. I personally recognize and appreciate the power of religious beliefs and of faith, but I think the author has overstated the impact of religiosity on Mankind's potential for achievement.
MY LATEST: My take on the classic House Of The... Rising Sun
Location: , Extraverse
Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 05:51 AM CDT
I let the music do the talking, but you did ask. By the way, nice to see you read something. However, the considerations presented here are generally incorrect.
The "problems" of cultural accomplishment present in a "none fertile" period should be clue enough.
Allow a quick slog though the errors? Human progress is not linear, in any respect, (no worry there!) Nihilism is dead, and no threat to the flowering of any advantage. All the problems in the philosophy of the West were resolved in the late 1800s. The correct information is available to most folks, they simply can't understand the issues. This is due to the empowerment of individuals beyond their capacity for understanding... arising out of the organizing structure dictated by socialism.
I would suggest you ask yourself the appropriate questions. Don't know where to start? Here is a good a place as any to start. What happened when the British sunk the HMS shipping advantage, and why/how did President Wilson order them to do so? (Never heard this 'bout this one?) Here's another one, in the same vein: Why was President Kennedy allowed to ride in an open motorcade through Dealey Plaza. (Yes Virginia, Oswald was the patsy he claimed to be.) One more?
The point being, culture/history is in the eye of the beholder. Advantage is ever present. Most are too thick and slow to understand, much less participate. They can wave the flag, a part to play within their scope of gifts. Just ask the right questions...
Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 08:06 AM CDT
These are just opinions.
I think the culture is in a flux. Now things seem jumbled because of technological advancements. Imagine how fast computers have developed! Rich and poor have access to the world information/communication systems. What impact does that have on the psychology of our culture? It might be significant. What affect does it have on any issues we've dealt with in the past, like religion and politics?
Things cannot be resolved the way they always have. Instant global information access will force people to think differently. We have seen the "flame wars" here at MacJams. How different is it to have a digital civil war? There are digital ideological civil wars going on here, now. How is it resolved? How do we approach online disagreements in an appropriate and efficient way?
On another line, as far as music goes, venues for listening to music used to be limited to live performances. In the recent past, recorded and radio transmitted music opened up the breadth of listeners. Not only could one listen to genres previously less available, but also appreciate specific artists. Because the record and radio outlets could be constrained by market developers, specific artists could be promoted as a focus for profit growth.
But as digital options open, what we listen to is so tailored to the individual, it is a challenge finding that number one artist who appeals to the masses. The music industry can no longer dictate who listens to what music.
I still listen to the radio, from time to time. But I find it to be challenging to sit through advertising, especially when I'm working. They also tend to play the more popular songs to death... Are they succumbing to the masses or directing them? (I fall into the conspiracy theory mode)
I have noticed a general order of development, for humans. One, philosophy/religion seems to be the base. Look at our history and the "Great Civilizations" of our past... and present. These societies are rooted in philosophy and religion followed closely by technology. Technology focuses on the military, but also transportation, communication, agriculture and so on. Culture is an effect of these traditions and technological advancement. None of the facets of our culture is stagnant. Different philosophies advance at different points to spur and affect many other parts.
We will have to see if the world develops a homogenous culture. I really don't know if this would be good or bad. I have no frame of reference. What I do know is that we need to be positive and watchful contributors to our expanding world culture and perhaps pull back from our personal agendas to get a clean look at how we affect/blend with a wider world.
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Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 08:32 AM CDT
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Location: Austin, TX
Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 11:00 AM CDT
Hm. There have been periods of artistic accomplishment that were driven by religion: Bach's 200 (surviving!) cantatas were directly for the church, and Vivaldi's 400 concertos were paid for by the church, if not written directly for church purposes.
On the other hand, the golden age of Dutch painting (Rembrandt, plus dozens before and after) were due to a suddenly prosperous middle class. People were religious, but art was not paid for by the church, and its themes had nothing to do with religion: household scenes, group portraits, landscapes, even cattle, and zillions of portraits of wealthy burghers.
The US was a hotbed of artistic innovation for a large part of the 20th century, and none of that had anything to do with spirituality.
On the other hand, I can point at lots of art inspired by religion / spirituality / a bigger sense of purpose, and they are all insipid in the extreme: Jugendstill, pre-Raphaelites, ....
Ok, now I will read the article.
-- My CD. Use coupon code "macjams" on BandCamp.
Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 02:11 PM CDT
In his article, Murray lays out what he claims are prerequisites, or enabling factors, that promote artistic growth, one of which is national wealth. This automatically excludes much of the world, now and throughout history.
My music is much better than it sounds.
Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 03:25 PM CDT
Subjectivity is always present, of course. We have Shakespeare and Beethoven. We have Danielle Steel and Eminem. At some point, objectivity enters into the discussion. It's presumptuous (probably) to try to identify greatness in our own time, but it's hard to argue that what we perceive as greatness of the past is really not all that great.
Undoubtedly, some "greatness" has slipped through the cracks. At the extreme, the greatest composer of all time (let's say) may have been a nomadic Berber, but too busy leading raids against the Trans-Saharan slave trade to have really finished anything, have it performed, written down, then passed along. The infrastructure did not exist. Advantage is not, and has not been, everywhere.
I have to admit that I didn't get the HMS/Wilson and Kennedy/Oswald connection.
My music is much better than it sounds.
Location: Portland, Oregon United States
Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 04:33 PM CDT
...that's just not true at all. I don't know what you've been reading, but the events and art of the late 19th century exposed myriad issues that had yet to be resolved.
I'm amused at how the author of the article seems unable to conceive of a lack of belief/motivation as a motivating factor. That kind of outlook is actually a product of contemporary 'goal-oriented' thinking, whereas really, the act of 'art' lies within the process of its conception, not the vocation toward which the artist is working. Of course, a vocation (or lack thereof) possesses an influence upon the creative process, but it is one factor among many. The use of the term 'nihilism' bothers me, because nihilism is a system of ideals in much the same way that religion is. In what way is a vehement belief in disbelief or in the breakdown of meaning different from a belief in God or in reincarnation? The article fails to define its terms.
It's funny, because I agree that our artistic pursuits have begun to stagnate, I just don't agree with Murray's reasoning. In fact, his failures may be symptomatic and representative of a few of my own issues with the state of art in contemporary North America. That's a rant for another day, though...
Location: , california
Wednesday, May 09 2012 @ 07:43 PM CDT
God gave rock and roll to you!! : D make a joyful noise : ) who cares what the nihilistic elites say are they happy?? gimme some iron butterfly THAT'S culture!! : ) some archies sugar sugar! some ramones!! and when I'm contemplative yes awaken -- gentle mass touching : )