Reading notes from the book “The phenomenon of Beauty in Culture”

“The Pathless Journey of Beauty: Experiencing the Sublime through the Enchantment of Eros” by Farouk Y. Seif

We may be on a quest for beauty but never know when we encounter beautiful things. We may intend to create beautiful objects but our intention does not automatically guarantee beautiful outcomes. And when we encounter beauty we never know when beautiful things will lead to the profound experience of sublime.

Beauty is an intentional journey without a predicted destination that, in fact, may or may not lead to experiencing the sublime. The journey of beauty does not follow a predetermined path of action or preconceived thought; rather its purpose is to engage in an unfolding emergent process; it is to walk the pathless journey of beauty without assurance or guarantee of rewards.

…contemporary philosophers have brought the paradox of love and beauty to the surface. If we love what we do not have , then love always seeks what it lacks. Paradoxically, Eros loves beautiful things because it lacks beautiful. And whereas love, manifested in Eros, is the highest degree of awareness of “self” as a human being, it is also the highest degree of integration with others.

Dewey says, “ The beauty of things that are in change – as are all things of experience – is to be regarded then but as a potential becoming of the soul toward apprehension of eternal patterns of beauty.” Beauty is the revelation of something that has gone through the transformative quality of imagination.

“When we fall in love, we begin to imagine; and when we begin to imagine, we fall in love.” James Hillman

Aesthetic experience is a multisensory encounter with beauty, involving all senses in which perception of one sense is based upon stimuli of another sense, synesthesia. Although senses allow for the recognition of images, imagination operates subconsciously beyond sensory experience. To perceive beauty is to gaze into its image so that it reveals its heart, its lovable quality.

Can social change be animated through the pathless journey of beauty? The Greek philosophical Hippias defined beauty (kalon) as the “beautiful pursuits” that embody two significant sophist claims: “to be wise” and “to be able to speak beautifully” about those pursuits. Having highlighted the intimate connections between beauty and love, and building on the definition of Hippias, it is reasonable to presuppose that the social or cultural change is a beautiful quest. To be wise and speak beautifully about beautiful pursuits is at the core of being a real change agent. To speak beautifully is also to create full participation in communication.

“communication is the process of creating participation, of making common what has been isolated and singular; and part of the miracle it achieves is that, being communicated, the conveyance of meaning gives body and definiteness to the experience of the one who utters as well as to that of those listen.” J. Dewey

To communicate is to “commune”, which is an avenue to experience communion and community, and where Eros is in the heart and soul of vitality cultures. And when we let go of creative tension inherent in Eros, the downfall of civilization is certain. Creative culture change is a function of entertaining alternative possibilities for a desired future. Such a desired future is to turn socially or culturally displeasing, and often grotesque, conduct into beautiful and pleasing practice. To move from the potential – through seeking the ideal – to the actual, we participate in the creation of the future through our capacity to conceive new possibilities and to bring them out of imagination, and turn them into actualities.

The enchantment of Eros infuses this sense of wholeness and beckons us with its creative energy. And when Eros brings together in a union, it negates our separation not by destroying our differences, but through the beauty of our differences and their potential for creative complementary.

To conspire is to breath together, to harmonize, or to unite in a purpose. Because conspiracy implies thinking, talking, and imagining together, it is a particularly significant feature along the pathless journey of beauty. In the context of cultural change, breathing together describes the essence of communication between agents of change and the others. Walking the path of beauty, the role of a change agent is to trigger the imagination of others, turning hideous social activities into beautiful and sustainable practices, and the aesthetic appreciation of beauty into the experience of the sublime.

Real beauty lies neither in the denial of sensuous pleasure along the way nor in the evolution of our modes of perceiving it, but in the intentional act of ensouling the world. The ultimate purpose of beauty then is not the mere indulgence of sensuous pleasure but the active engagement with love to experience the everlasting sublime, that with which nothing els can be compared and which transcends all aesthetic sensuality. The journey between the two poles of beauty and sublime is fluid like water. “We make the road by walking”, says A.Machado: Wayfarer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; Wayfarer, there is no road; the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind, one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wayfarer, there is no road – only waves upon the sea.

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