Art. What Is It Good For? | Truth

BY JERRY MCNEAL

Recently, I’ve heard the term “fake news” used quite a lot. I cringe a little, because that term has come to mean a distraction from the truth, and on its surface, that might seem to be a valid cry. For me, it means that I should be digging deeper, and that proof of the “news” I must find for myself. Not just in my echo box, where all I value is reflected, reinforced and returned to me, but in any way the information system serves us all. Truth can come in deep study, through context of conversation, or as an awakening. When I stumbled on my own meaning of truth, it was beautiful.

Deep immersion leads to a broader understanding. One can look at a picture of a teapot and appreciate its form and color. Or handle it, and grasp its texture. A more complete comprehension comes with use, and the truth and beauty of the vessel infuses the user, as scalding water infuses the tea. Both strengths and weaknesses are revealed.

“To know an object is to lead to it through a context which the world provides.” –– William James

Context plays an important role in sorting the beauty of truth from the distraction of static.

I’ve seen representations of Rothko’s color field canvases from his series of red murals. Even from a decent reproduction of “Red on Maroon,” I had nearly zero appreciation. Much later, I had an opportunity to view the work in person, at scale in a prestigious museum. In the context of the environment, a sort of truth-revelation emerged that I wasn’t expecting. I discovered something in myself about understanding, and felt overwhelmed. My perceptions had been jolted into clarity that day. Another time, I had the privilege to visit Bernini’s masterpiece, “Apollo and Daphne.” Having seen it many times in pictures, again I hadn’t been prepared for the shock of understanding. The pursuit of an object of desire will change that object, just as Daphne became a laurel tree at Apollo’s touch. The marble was breathtaking, but the truth was beautiful.

“Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context.” –– David Byrne

The concept is the same for music, too. A recording, even of the highest fidelity, cannot supplant the experience of being in the presence of a spectacular pipe organ at a great concert hall, or of being on that Kentucky back porch in the heat of a summer night, or in solitude with a harmonica. The more direct one’s involvement, the more enhanced are perceptions of beauty and truth.

If art can reveal truth, so can numbers. For centuries the Golden Ratio has been recognized as beauty itself and has been applied to subjects far beyond art. Any architect or mathematician will tell you that Pi is a beautiful number because it speaks to the nature of infinity, and for its utility in unlocking sacred and universal truth.
There is beauty in truth, as there is truth in beauty insofar as they are found together. The clearest path to both is a personal engagement at the nearest level, as a microbiologist studies a virus. The term, ‘Fake News’ is a signal flare that should open our eyes and launch our perceptions in search of clarity. Truth is beautiful.



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