Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is taste a human right?

This posting was originally issued
May 25th and was taken down for
revision. A friend was asking for it
lately, and allowed that it was OK
as it was. It should still be developed,
and in time I hope to do so.

Another excellent exchange
on taste was lately joined
at Blue Remembered Hills.

     A thousand postings in the same vessel at the same time,
and still we haven't identified the right to what is so often decried of this page, taste. It's a matter of important work, 
and then we can play.

     On almost every page of this blog, a right is asserted on behalf of the young, of which they were endowed by their creator but only haphazardly by society, if at all. The right to have Horace at one's back, Haydn in one's hospital, Heraclitus in one's curriculum is nothing more than the right to be formed in the legacy of one's birthright - and nothing less. Thousands of seagulls will crash into the Seagram Building before any ten pedestrians in a walking radius will know to preserve it. Yet, it was built for every man on the street for coherency's sake, for proportion's sake, for longevity's sake, and then for eloquence and elegance and inspiration's sake. And why is this, if not because no civilisation can stand without them?
     Is it possible to torture in good taste? Is it possible to tease others with oppression in good taste? Is it possible to exalt grandiosity in good taste? Is it possible to refuse the gifts of science in good taste? Is it possible to plan for New Orleans to drown in good taste? Is it possible for a fiduciary insider-trader to "bet" against his client in good taste?
     Could Mr Madison have fashioned the separation of powers without taste? Could Mozart have reconciled his finales without taste? Could a child's quadratic equation in algebra stand without taste? If we were conscious of the rôle of taste, in short, what would be obscure? 

     We are unalterably adamant, even in this nation, on the universal right of learning. We are at times tiresomely persistent at this page, on the universal obligation to commit the same act, at least on behalf of the young. Is it not probable, given grounding in Vitruvius and Palladio, Titian and Watteau, Haydn and Schubert, Virgil and Virginia Woolf, that some software program can be written, to infuse our domestic design with sympathy -- even if, as we read from time to time, nobody knows anything anymore?
     Coherency. Proportion. Longevity. Add whatever aioli we may want, this is our sandwich of taste. Of course it can be learned; it has only been learned, as regards comprehension if not execution. Let taste shape my herbaceous borders all it wants, it will incrementally shape my civilisation. Why, may an outsider ask, do we ever entertain the slightest doubt, that Syrie Maugham lives up to the Persian Letters of Montesquieu, and that David Adler should be taught in middle schools, along with Mr Emerson?

     The teaching of taste, the sharing of taste, the conserving of taste for the bequeathing of taste have been the subjects of this blog, just as the novelty of its projection of those purposes has struck some as paradoxical. The answer is, that the constituency for those purposes claims precedence here over examples of its achieve-ment, to lend resolution to a task which should feel like play. Something mad over something good, in a word, from the BRH exchange. We want there to be healing voices, we wish there to be a literature of power without force, but not merely because they are in good taste. The wanting of them gives the good sensation of their being, if one has the taste to dream of them. And this obliges us, once in a thousand blog entries, to declare their necessity. We want such things because there are people we love, to be looked after, and taste is their right, their ultimate protection.

I dedicate this posting
with thanks, to the
sharers of taste who
have been with Laurent.


  1. And thank you, Laurent, for nearly 10 years of sharing the consequences of taste.

    1. Kind of you to say, bcw, but the incentive's always the brighter star. Thanks to you; and if your math is not off, whatever's still in bottle can only be getting better ..

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you for taking note of the entry, PGT. The argument is a work in progress but I have been interested to find, behind things here, that correspondents from the South have been in favour of one's pursuing it. Possibly this is complete coincidence, but I think not: in the South, we are familiar with and comfortable with conceiving of such things in "categorical" terms - it would not seem incongruous, here, to identify the feelings with a right. In case you follow these replies, I wonder what you think.