Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Ecclesian Aesthetic II: Nobility in Nature

A second means by which an Aesthetic mindset is presented in the ancient philosophy of the Ecclesiast is by contrasting it with John Ruskin's notion of the "Noble Picturesque" which is an aesthetic object that gains its value through "its expression, namely, of suffering, of poverty, or decay, nobly endured by unpretending strength of heart" (Ruskin 85).   In seeing that John Ruskin's idea of that which is the "Noble Picturesque" necessarily accepts and finds its value in its flawed nature, one can make the parallel to the Israelite nation in the notion that the community itself must acquire the ideals of a "Noble Picturesque."  So, in light of a post exilic lifestyle, the Ecclesiast philosophy not only gives permission for the community to proceed in their oppressed lifestyle, but it also sets up a noble ideal so that the community actually finds value in its diminished nature. This allows the broken community to maintain integrity even in the midst of struggle and against their monarchic ideal.

 On this the Ecclesiast once again borrows Heraclitian thought when he says, "All streams run to the sea, yet the sea never overflows; back to the place from which the streams ran they return to run again" (REB Ecc 1.7). So while the heightened value of the flowing river for Heraclites is its changing nature, the Ecclesiast shifts this thought to maintain that change is only an intermediary state which anticipates the return of the past; the Ecclesiast gives rise to acceptance of circumstance while maintaining the hope of a future return to glory, and parallels the "Noble Picturesque" through the acceptance of flaw as the means of value.  In this way, the Israelite community is able to find its identity in its struggle and is thus able to reconcile itself to the sin that, by the Judaic tradition, allowed the downfall of its monarchy.

So, while the "Noble Picturesque" obtains its nobility through its savagery, through its necessarily diminished nature, or by its flawed essence, so too does the Israelite nation parallel this aesthetic quality by the embodiment and propagation of its flawed nature which is further seen in a return to chapter four when the author notes, "Better one hand full, along with peace of mind, than two full, along with toil" (REB Ecc 4.6).  Here, again, the author allows for the nature of the present state of being to become the means by which the community accepts its place, and while it does not neglect the hope of a future glory, it leans toward circumstance as an almost teleological function so that the nature of existence of the Israelites is the function of who they are.  By this then, struggle and flaw become the ideal. As a teleological function, the flaw of the present must be the ideal as a progression toward the future glory, and thus an aesthetic ideal is born out by a parallel to the "Noble Picturesque."


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