Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Another turnstile turned

We turned another turnstile in vis-its to rmbl yesterday, at lunch-time. One of those meaningless yet diverting milestones which assail us all, in an unguarded corner of the eye, yet touch upon neither process nor substance in any il-luminating way. I thought I might be at a loss to depict an occasion so negligible, but given that I'm taking something of a holiday, I applied myself to that puzzle with heightened gainlessness, borrowing an attitude from Santayana.

Literature .. cannot long forget, without forfeiting all dignity, that it serves a burdened and per-plexed creature, a human animal struggling to persuade the univer-sal sphinx, to propose a more in-telligible riddle. Irresponsible and trivial in its abstract im-pulse, man's simian chatter becomes noble as it becomes symbolic; its representative function lends it a serious beauty, its utility endows it with moral worth.

George Santayana, possibly to be under-
stood as a Harvard man, could often be
mistaken for a draughtsman of Nobel ac-
ceptance speeches, in spare moments be-
tween dispensing towels at a turkish
bath. It is unnerving to summon an echo
of his superheated sympathies, but we
find them in the loftiest libraries of
our hereditary aristocracies, seething
to be preached, and they resound equal-
ly in the depredations of critics, and
other soi-disant mentors of our time:

Taste is formed in those     moments when aesthetic emotion is massive and distinct; preferences then grown conscious, judgments put into words, will reverberate through calmer hours; they will constitute prejudices, habits of apperception, secret standards for all other beauties.

Literature, Santayana might have recalled to the enhance-ment of his argument, is full of rogues who cherish their troubles as flowerings of taste. Was this the origin of the restaurant as we know it? 

George Santayana
The Life of Reason
  Reason in Art
Scribner, 1905©

David Cecil
Library Looking-Glass
  A Personal Anthology
op. cit.

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