As/Is







6.17.2015


Grecian Ideals


Harmony and integrity between the body and the soul: that is the Grecian ideal. I mean the Greece of Plato, Aristotle, and the like. What John Keats taps into in his odal cycle is a desire to re-invigorate this ideal with a new series of assignations and associations. What his Muse, Psyche, is supposed to engender, both in his own psyche as he writes and in his assumed audience, is a sense of complete, all-absorptive arousal- cognitive and physical arousal at the same time. The ideas which animate Psyche as a presence for Keats- innocence, virginity, purity, piety-in-Nature and Natural processes/forces, are arousing for a brain looking to recreate these ideas as a basis for cognitive satisfaction/euphoria; while Psyche, being physically attractive, is also straightforwardly sexually arousing to him and his audience, in the odal manner of being passionate, spontaneous, or (to be a little flippant) "mad for it." Where this created integrity between body and soul leads, in its ideal form, is into the achievement (as I have said) of an apotheosis of artistic form- Keats' prosody.

Why "apotheosis" aesthetic forms are important to bring back, as manifestations of Grecian or Romantic ideals of harmony between body and soul, is very simple- to restore the natural, healthy vigor of pursuing stimulation and satisfaction in major high art consonant art. The perversion and denigration which was foisted on high art in the twentieth century made clear that "pleasure" was no longer to be drawn from its products, just as it is ludicrous to think that a walk through MOMA could "please" anyone profoundly or in an indigenous way. The likes of John Ashbery and Barnett Newman are not there to "please" anyone, and whatever subterranean force placed them in an elevated position did not have in mind (it seems to me) any ideals at all. Being pleased by high art, and seeking to unify the body and soul, or, as a slight tangent, inside the mind and outside the mind, are good ideas, and when a formal apotheosis is attained by an artist, it is also a decent idea to derive as much physical or cognitive ecstasy from it as you possibly can. High art is supposed to be fun too- demanding fun, rigorous fun, cognitively engaged fun, but fun nonetheless. The companionable quality of the Odes are fun, indeed- and that we have bodies and souls which, if drawn into the right alignment, give us access to higher frequencies of thought and feeling, are one subtext of the Odes which throws out the baby with the bath-water if unacknowledged.