Becoming an aesthete

Two weeks ago, in one of my numerous conference calls (dear lord they never end!), my cleverest colleague enthusiastically outburst:

“I can’t wait to gather all the best HR practices from our clients. There are going to be plenty of innovative practices arising from this lockdown experience.” 

She marked a dramatic pause before carrying on: 

“We can think of the basic recognition of working from home. Some companies, which were very traditional on this side, will have no other choice than to institute it. We are entering a new era in the world of work!” she concluded gaily. 

I was astonished by her ebullience, and the sincerity thereof. At that moment I remembered thinking: I want to be her, I want to believe that there is the possibility of creating a better world post-COVID. And it made me think. 

Although I know that our societies will not radically change for the better after this pandemic, I liked the cerebral exercise. I liked the questioning: what would I change in our societies if I could? Most importantly, what kind of world do I want to bring up my daughter in? 

I realized that if I am serious in picturing a “real utopian” world, I needed to use my imagination like children do: I needed to create by allowing beauty to enter back into our lives. 

Indeed, children look at the world in binary terms (good or bad) and beauty is essential to them. Therefore, it is crucial to allow children, these natural critics of beauty, and to allow adults also, access to aesthetics. 

The definition of Aesthetics 

If one wants to explore thoroughly the realm of aesthetics, then one needs to be ready for a lot of intellectual masturbation and for even more Prozac! 

In this article, I will just focus on one part of Britannica’s definition of aesthetics which is:  

“the philosophical study of beauty and taste. It is closely related to the philosophy of art. […]” yet “aesthetics is broader in scope than the philosophy of art, which comprises one of its branches.”

Ah, doesn’t this sentence sound delightful: “the study of beauty and taste”?

Beauty would not merely be part of our lives, but would sit squarely at its centre. In other words, the possibility of having beauty shining through every level of our society: education, work, urbanism, and the environment. 

The fact that this sentiment is utterly subjective is irrelevant, because the idea is to offer a plurality of reference points for beauty: it is a study. Beauty would not be that superficial element, offered by the media as cheap nourishment for ignorance. On the contrary! It would be majestically upheld as a remedy to intellectual laziness. We, as aesthetes, would perpetually look for beauty, therefore we would constantly ask ourselves: is it beautiful? 

Imagine if our lives were guided by this unique question: is it beautiful? 

If we replied, non it is not beautiful, then it would not be part of our lives. It would be exterminated. 

What I would exterminate 

What I would start by eliminating would definitely be Peppa the Pig. The cartoon visuals are so bad that they are simply an insult to human kind. As a functional adult, I am profoundly disturbed by the phallic shape of her nose. Where my daughter sees a pig, I see a man’s genitals with two urethral orifices.

I know what I see

Honestly, Peppa the pig should walk herself on a grill during a Braai on a beautiful Sunday lockdown. We can find someone else to teach our children how to have a British accent. If our quest to educate our children should revolve around beauty, we should offer them something that is visually beautiful. So Peppa, go ahead and root around in the dirt with your “hum hum”-shaped nose; try to dig up the deep layers of aesthetics and stop invading our screens as if you were the only cartoon out there. 

And that comes to my other point: beauty on the screens. The amount of images we see; the amount of uselessness information we gather is just appalling. Why do I know that a Kim Kardashian exists? Why? Just like the Essex « babes », the Geordie shore clan – why are we so obsessed with these people whose only claim to fame is promoting silicone and bad grammar? For some, they are a beautiful image to look at while polishing their private parts, I get that. 

But my struggle is that they are omnipresent. Their tastelessness invades our screens as if they were the only ones to exist. There is no way to avoid them. Even serious media makes reference to them. 

We have never had more of an opportunity to be exposed to taste; to beauty. Yet, all the focus is given to vulgarity. I am appalled to observe that most mainstream creations are repulsively vulgar. Do not get me wrong about vulgarity. Vulgarity is an incredible tool for emphasising a message, but it should never be the message itself. And yet, the Internet is swamped with depravity and debauchery, as if the only way to provoke and to be heard was to abuse vulgarity, pushing the limits of decency and cleverness farther and farther away each time. 

Becoming an aesthete

I really believe that we need to stop patronizing the masses into believing that only the non-cerebral can raise their interests. It has been scientifically proven that IQ levels have lowered worldwide over time. For instance, France has lost 3.8 IQ points since 2000, while the average Briton has 14 points fewer since the second industrial revolution. How sad it is to experience a dumbing down of our societies.

If only we asked ourselves constantly, “is this beautiful”? then we would get rid of a lot of uselessness and tastelessness, and consequently elevate our intellect.

I am serious: if we eliminated everything that we considered as not beautiful, we would realize that for one to become an aesthete, one needs to simply get rid of their screen. 

There is no real beauty coming from the screen. And after this period of confinement, this statement will take on an exquisite taste of truth. A landscape will always be more impressive seen in real life; an opera will always be more moving when watched in a theatre; a session with a stimulating genius will always be more captivating when conducted face to face; and a the smile of a baby most beautiful when addressed to you in person. 

As once le Petit Prince said:

“It is truly useful since it is beautiful.”

We need beauty back into our lives, therefore what we really need to exterminate is our screens.

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One thought on “Becoming an aesthete

  1. Hear hear! Again Ms de Kermoal draws the reader into her vision with pinpoint accuracy. This time her gripe is vulgarity and our obsession with celebrity. She is right. What is the point of celebrity if it cannot teach us good taste? So to each and every one of you I beseech you to pursue the life of the aesthete! I am taking up the call in earnest today!

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