Conversation on Beauty

by Richard Kuslan (September 2018)

Venere e Amore, Hendrik van den Broeck, 16th century

Author’s Friend (AF): Just read Birth of Venus, Not sure I fully understand it—need Mrs. [name of high school English instructor] to help with analysis. What inspired you?


Author (A): The story of the birth of Venus. Classical Greek myth, subject of much Renaissance art. Stressing the worth of Beauty in our modern age where ugliness is the preferred expression, in music, art, theater, etc. That’s why I wrote it in a classical-like style, to show it can still be done. If you read the myth itself, you’ll see the poem tracks the events of it rather closely.


AF: Hmm. Is ugliness the preferred expression?


A: Oh gosh, yes. Walk through the Yale art museum. First walk through the Renaissance wing, then walk through the modern art section. The former works concern themselves with numinous notions of beauty and divinity. The latter preoccupied with distortions of the human form, even its defilement. Music very similar. From musical ideas that once concerned harmonious dignity and ideals, but in our age, loud and angry noise, generally speaking. Of course, there are exceptions. These ideas have occupied my mind for decades, but only now do I have the opportunity and capacity to express them succinctly and well.



AF: Aha. Make America Great Again?


A: That may be a political aspect to this larger cultural flip-flop. But, it is much bigger than that.



And with Pollack and the abstract expressionists and the Impressionists, often the medium itself was the message. There was no grand story telling—purposely.

Today, there may not be much audience for, or even appreciation of, The Birth of Venus.



AF: Perhaps. But in no way would I compare Pollack or the abstract expressionists to Piss Christ.


AF: Then I look forward to reading about it in your next endeavor.


A: But one has to know, has to have discovered wherein truth and beauty consist. The post-modernist asserts that there is no truth—it’s all relative. And Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, rather than an Ideal that overarches the mundane. Since they predicate all their works on this premise, they can never glimpse it, so they can never express it.

Even if that expression of it is only but a glimpse.

AF: Well glad I could be of assistance. I enjoy it as well—keeps the neurons lubricated.

I do believe that at least to some extent beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There can be no one simple definition of beauty.


AF: Like the Impressionists, the Abstract Expressionists, Rothko, Picasso, the Minimalists, many others, and even Pollack tried to do—to get at the essence of the thing, the chair, the nude descending the staircase, rather than the thing itself.


Mathematicians with insight discovered it and use it to great effect in our lives.


know it. And when it is encountered, wow. Even more often encountered than fraud in financial advisors, than it is in art. De Kooning whose paintings go for millions, total fraud. Incompetent, couldn’t paint, not even that he lacked mastery, he lacked everything and, with the help of a famous so-called critic who bought his paintings cheap and then wrote up his paintings as great art, made many millions when he sold the collection.

Last month or so I saw a canvas in the Houston Museum of Fine Arts that was so fine and so moving, so extraordinarily beautiful, divine, I wondered how the artist, who lived when life was full of death and pain with few comforts, could see it. And express it.

Let me see if I can find the photo (see above photo).


It is an anti-chapel. Another example of the fraud perpetrated on art.


AF: Hmm. Your opinion of course. Wow. What a skeptic.


The academics are all progressives when it comes to culture. They are a bloc.

No, not a skeptic.

And once you do, holy mackerel, there are many.

They all loved Madoff until he was found out. And no one but no one would listen to Harry Markopolos.


AF: An Underground of sorts?

A: Of course beauty is present even now. All over. But the general trend of popular culture is ugliness, defilement. That is what they even teach in the schools.


AF: Of course, still your opinion.


A: There really is a right way to look at things.


AF: Ugliness is as subjective as beauty I suppose.


A: This is what the progressives teach. Because for them it all comes down to one assumption—

There is no truth.

What I have found is, that to discover truth, one must posit that it exists. Like the theoretical point and line in geometry.

Yes, I know better. The state knows nothing.

AF: So you are a Fascist? Because you know better than anyone else? Your opinion is the correct opinion?


A: What the progressive mind wants us to accept is that no one knows better. Except them, of course.

My take on this is a total contradiction to the current, century old trend.

Many have come to the same conclusion.


Should a government adopt that philosophy, there would inevitably be prisons for improper thought.


A: Roger Scruton, an absolutely brilliant Englishman, philosopher speaks on this topic of beauty eloquently, explains it much better than I can.

Yes. There is a right way. Or at least a better way.

We could drive on square tires. But a wheel is far better. And we see what is right by virtue of what is produced by it. Like for example, the quality of pork. Feed the animal junk and abuse it and the meat tastes bad. Feed it the best quality acorns and wash the animal, etc, let it roam, and it tastes fantastic and with better texture.

The discernment, our discernment, that is what shows us what is better.

That is an aesthetic judgment.


-the conversation ends here-


It must be because this vast cultural transition is at an incipient moment when examples of its blossoming are still few. But everywhere people are witness to this transition. We (myself and people like me) see everywhere bankruptcy manifest in each and every one of their creations. The products of their -ism, emanating from their One Great Principle—that there is no Truth—are routinely crude, crass, false, fraudulent, profane, unsatisfying: poison. 


While the academics apparently seem to thrive in their self-referential bubble, many of us on the outside of the proverbial ivory tower have seen through them. 


We are poised on the crest of a new aesthetic. Perhaps a better analogy is that seedlings of great promise have popped up under the detritus. 


This is why Beauty—which human beings are naturally attracted to from the earliest age—is so important. The ideal of Beauty grounds the artist, the writer, the performer, the poet, the playwright, the sculptor in a nourishing soil without which none of us can sink roots. This is what we must restore for our own sake, and for the children.



Richard Kuslan is an admirer of Donne, Sheridan, Byron, LeFanu, Trollope, Orwell, Sacheverell Sitwell, Christopher Logue and Jean Sprackland, among (many) others in the English language. He marvels at meaning’s fecundity when language is constrained by form and delights in the melodies that take to the air when the beautiful is read aloud.

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