Sunday, 23 March 2014

Taste for Beauty

A new post in the series - Satyam Shivam Sundaram
A series featuring inspiring words from various sources, words that speak of timeless truths, words that remind me of the deeper and hidden truth behind surface events and phenomena, words that shine light when all seems dark, words that are just what I need - for this moment and for all times to come.

Sometime ago when surfing on the net, I came across a rather interesting quote from Paul Gauguin. It was one of those things that you just can't keep to yourself, so I shared it on my blog's Facebook page. 
"There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity. In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite."

Days passed. And I almost forgot about it.

Then the other day while re-reading Sri Aurobindo's wonderful essays on "National Value of Art", the following caught my attention: 

"The mind is profoundly influenced by what it sees and, if the eye is trained from the days of childhood to the contemplation and understanding of beauty, harmony and just arrangement in line and colour, the tastes, habits and character will be insensibly trained to follow a similar law of beauty, harmony and just arrangement in the life of the adult man. This was the great importance of the universal proficiency in the arts and crafts or the appreciation of them which was prevalent in ancient Greece, in certain European ages, in Japan and in the better days of our own [Indian] history. Art galleries cannot be brought into every home, but, if all the appointments of our life and furniture of our homes are things of taste and beauty, it is inevitable that the habits, thoughts and feelings of the people should be raised, ennobled, harmonised, made more sweet and dignified.
"Between them music, art and poetry are a perfect education for the soul; they make and keep its movements purified, self- controlled, deep and harmonious. These, therefore, are agents which cannot profitably be neglected by humanity on its onward march or degraded to the mere satisfaction of sensuous pleasure which will disintegrate rather than build the character. They are, when properly used, great educating, edifying and civilising forces."

Perhaps some hints to the answer to the problem that Gauguin might have been concerned with, namely, how to cultivate taste and rise above mediocrity is to be found in Sri Aurobindo's words cited above. But only hints. Because ultimately the question will have to be asked - what is beauty? 

Sri Aurobindo delves deep into that question in his play, "The Harmony of Virtue". And as delightful and thoroughly enjoyable a read that 70+ pages-long play is, I also find a small passage of his just as delightfully engaging and thought-provoking when it comes to begin appreciating what might be truly beautiful. The small passage I am thinking of is titled "The Beauty of a Crow’s Wings."

"It is not only that the sable blackness of the crow’s wings has in it wonderful shades of green and violet and purple which show themselves under certain stresses of sunlight, but that the black itself, sable of wing or dingy of back & breast has itself a beauty which our prejudiced habits of mind obscure to us. Under its darkness, we see, too, a glint of dingy white."

Image credits: 1. Watercolour on paper by Bindu Popli; 2. Sourced from here

Click here for the previous post in this series.
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Linking this post with Everyday Gyaan-Anything Goes on Sunday-3