Art and the Privation of Good
Its Impact on the Soul and Reflected in the Written Word
Evil therefore is nothing but the privation of good. And thus it can have no existence anywhere except in some good thing. . . . So there can be things which are good without any evil in them, such as God himself, and the higher celestial beings; but there can be no evil things without good. For if evils cause no damage to anything, they are not evils; if they do damage something, they diminish its goodness; and if they damage it still more, it is because it still has some goodness which they diminish; and if they swallow it up altogether, nothing of its nature is left to be damaged. And so there will be no evil by which it can be damaged, since there is then no nature left whose goodness any damage can diminish. – St. Augustine of Hippo
With respect to art of late, and in all its forms, I do have a question. First, I must state that I notice that many art forms are taking on a “politically correct” kind of expression, like the artist is “frozen” or “convalescent,” and working totally to negate the good, meaning, reflecting the good only when it is appropriate or acceptable, and with wild abandon expressing only evil. Why is it always dark and nothing more, not of humor, not love, not life.
So, now that the delight in evil is brought forward at the expense of what is good, can it be called art? Do I dare say no? All art is enriched by deep truth. T.S. Elliot’s poem “Hysteria” speaks truth when:
I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped,
some of the fragments of the afternoon might
be collected, and I concentrated my attention with
careful subtlety to this end.
In praise of all art of truth! In praise of T.S. Elliot and all poets who are true! But where is truth today? Where is the passion, love and humor anymore? And how is darkness truth if it is not shed on a background of light? How can lightness be truth if not shed on a background of darkness? Where is the subtlety that moves us? It is as though works are made in celebration of the privation of good only; but what about the pretense in this? Is it truth? It can be truth if it works, but if it cannot even be imagined as true in life (for life cannot be sustained in the total absence of either), why is it art when it cannot be believed?
Art must be believed, or, if not believed, we must be convinced of this unbelief. How is it that, perhaps for the first time, the contents of our dualistic natures are squelched or only partially fulfilled by all of Yin or all of Yang, where the expression or imagery conveys mostly emotion and privation of good but no truth?
Please comment. Do you see this happening to art also?