Paradoxes of Beauty

The ancient Romans understood the danger beauty posed. The word "beauty" comes from Old French (beaute), which in turn derived from the Latin word "bellus," meaning handsome, fine, or pretty. Yet the Latin word for "war" is "bellum"--a difference of one letter, and at the end of the word, indistinguishable from the neuter form of the adjective (also "bellum"). The Roman goddess of war was Bellona.

The Romans believed that war had beauty, perhaps a terrible beauty, but a beauty all the same. Why else did Caesar write so movingly about war? And why did the Romans make dying in the service of the Mars a far more honourable and glorious death than did the earlier Greeks, from whom they stole so much.

Interestingly enough, while Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, studies show that she evolved from a comparatively weak and generally benign goddess in the Greek Iliad to a goddess of both compelling beauty and treachery in later Greek and Roman poems.

Even the term "belladonna" is Italian for "the beautiful lady," but it refers to the herb from which the poison atropine was extracted. Throughout human history, beauty has been and continues to be regarded with great suspicion. Those who would define it are often called to task, and their efforts dismissed with the old cliche that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Yet… individuals have attempted to describe and define deities. Cultures have striven to create art of great beauty, whether in hard and tangible stone, or in the intangible and fleeting creations of music and song. Beauty is accepted as an attribute of creations or of individuals, but never as an absolute. Religions and cultures have attempted to define other so-called abstracts in hard terms, abstracts such as justice, mercy, compassion. Yet any serious scholar who attempts to define beauty in the same terms runs the risk of ridicule or ostracism…

Why do people so fear the ideal of beauty that stands by itself, unlinked from creations or individuals? Is it because so few can appreciate it? Understand it? Or because beauty is transcendent, and those who can define it within themselves have climbed an intangible step above the masses who, like the ancient Romans, find their beauty in destruction?

Archform:Beauty - chapter:20

March, A.D. 2365

The Importance of Irrationality

Logic and rationality are like three-edged blades, and two of the blades wound the user more than the third wounds the enemy or benefits the user.

The so-called rational analytical approach embodies a fundamental flaw, a flaw that has consistently and historically either been ignored by both rationalists and scholars or minimized. This flaw is the assumption that matters, feelings, or occurrences that cannot be described rationally or quantified objectively are of such little significance that they will not affect the outcome of the analysis. Further, such "non-rational" feelings or occurrences are all too often termed "irrational" and thus dismissed as beneath consideration.

In attempting to evaluate all too many human situations, in practical terms, there is indeed a difficulty. How does one quantify love or hatred, exaltation or depression, patriotism, or beauty? How can one present any of these "objectively"? How can one weigh the impact upon human conduct? Upon economic or political behaviour?

The problem is merely made worse by the rationalists who dismiss those who cannot present their case or argument objectively and rationally. Failure to present a case in rational terms does not mean that the case does not exist; it only means that either the presenter cannot provide a logical format or that the case is not susceptible to logical presentation. By insisting on an objectively rational case, the rationalists impose what can best be called "the tyranny of logic."

Solicitors and attorneys at law have historically been the leading tyrants of logic. We have seen through the ages how totally unjust, unmerciful, and irrational laws and judicial decisions have been reached through pure logic and rationality.

Moreover, the tyrants of logic question the value of the so-called irrational. Of what use is great art? Beautiful music? Inspiring architecture?

In point of fact, any decision--indeed, any organization or culture--which does not incorporate emotion, passion, and other so-called irrational factors will in the long run fail, because the absolute reliance upon quantified facts and pure logic reduces the intelligence of the decisions of that culture. The evidence of history demonstrates that few strong societies have existed transgenerationally without an internal culture embodying irrational elements such as love, beauty, art, and music.

Yet, from the centuries preceding the first Collapse through the present, supposedly intelligent men and woman have striven to ensure that the decisions that they make are grounded in absolutely quantified facts and pure rational logic…

Archform:Beauty - chapter:48

June, A.D. 2364