Friday, December 9

that should be enough

"I am beautiful, O mortals, like a dream of stone," says
Beauty, in Baudelaire's sonnet "La Beauté," where Baudelaire, in
Fewer words than I, has set down his ideas on the subject. Essentially he
Sees Beauty as eternal and pure, an enslaver of poets.
Rilke says that we love beauty because it "so serenely
Disdains to destroy us." In making works of art, then,
Is the excitement we feel that of being close to the elements of
Destruction? I do not want any mystery in this poem, so I will
Let that go. Or, rather, I want the mystery to be that it is clear
But says nothing which will satisfy completely but instead stirs to action
(or contemplation)
As beauty does -- that is, I wish it to be beautiful. But why I want that,
Even, I do not entirely know. Well, it would put it in a class of things
That seems the highest, and for one lifetime that should be enough.

-- Kenneth Koch, from "On Beauty"

lit up

In line with recent breakthroughs in neurological brain research, I fancy that one day the mental event that is an experience of beauty will be X-ray photographed. I predict that the photograph will show the brain lit up like a Christmas tree, with simultaneous firings of neurons in many parts of the brain, though not very brightly. It will show a suddenly swelling diffused glow that wanes gradually.

-- Peter Schjeldahl, in "Notes on Beauty" Columns and Catalogues