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I passed through a site today--no one in St. Blogs, so don't get any notions--where I so desperately wanted to make a comment that could in no way be made as charitably as I wanted to make it. Correction is always difficult. So after attempting it five different ways, I abandoned the enterprise and went on, with this error still rankling in my head.

Now I write about it to exorcise its ghost and to wonder why I should be so concerned about the relatively minor errors of other. This after all wasn't a matter of faith or morals or even right and wrong in the religious sense--it was a matter of sensibility, taste, training, and to some extent presumption on the part of the person posting. But is it up to me to correct presumption and error? If they think Rod McKuen will be remembered and savored alongside John Keats, is that my problem to correct? If Thomas Kinkade is their artist of choice and they think that all of those worthless Vermeers in the art galleries should be replaced, should I worry? So long as they don't run an art gallery and are merely redecorating their living spaces, why should I be concerned?

And then it occurred to me as well that we all have areas where we are deeply concerned about formation and about depth and breadth and understanding. My particular weak point is the question of art, music, literature, beauty, truth, and goodness. Where someone fails in these, I have this urge to lecture, to correct, to say things that in all truth needn't be said and will not ultimately profit either party.

I would that I could learn these things before I warm up my typing fingers.

Sometimes even those things that can be said in charity need not be said. Often, silence is the better part.

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You probably know this story, (I think it is from /A Story of a Soul/) but it recently came up in conversation at my house:

When St. Therese was novice mistress, one of her novices came to her because she had had a dream that someone she knew would join the community. St. Therese and the novice went to the Abbess to ask permission to write the person to tell her about the dream. The Abbess' response: Carmelites are supposed to save souls through prayer, not letters.

St. Therese and her novice prayed for the girl, and by Easter she had joined the community.



Allow me to introduce you to my wife's “Theory of Universal Aesthetic Rightness�.

It goes something like this (though I am a weak apologist for this theory):

1.There is a universal norm of aesthetics. At this point, everyone everywhere would agree that an object is aesthetically right and derive great joy from experiencing it. (It is acknowledged that this may only be theoretical...the meandering of an aesthetics thought experiment gone awry...and unattainable for us mere mortals.)

2.Each individual, to some degree, goes away from the universal aesthetic.

3.In going away from the universal, they setup their own individual “Sense of Aesthetic Rightness�. This is, to them, what depicts beauty. Unfortunately...

4.Some people go away from it to a very great degree, and wander into the depths of tackiness...or worse...

5.Given this, it is possible for someone to embrace something that you find repulsive, tacky or foolish. These people are said to have violated your “sense of aesthetic rightness.� The more repulsive, tacky or foolish, the deeper the hurt to your own sometimes delicate sense of aesthetic rightness.

What happened to you today is easily explained. The people/persons that you encountered have violated your sense of aesthetic rightness. You felt an urge to explain to them that there is a higher universal that they could aspire to, if only they would put away their “Dogs Playing Poker� and polyester leisure suits. (My neighbors routinely put up things like a six foot tall Winnie the Pooh dressed in a pumpkin. In a few weeks, the entire troup of seven dwarves will replace Pooh, the dwarves dressed in Christmas clothes. Sadly, I am not joking. The worst is that they routinely win "yard of the month" from the home owners association.)

Don't worry. These feelings will pass. I suggest three Monet's and a stiff shot of Mozart. If it was really bad, have a Beethoven chaser. Get some sleep. You'll feel better in the morning.

As a bibliographical note, my wife suggests that I mention A Confederacy of Dunces. It was here that her ideas of aesthetic rightness began, with Ignatius' repeated claims that something had violated his sense of theology and geometry. O FORTUNA!

Dear Mark,

That's absolutely fantastic. Thank you.



for shame!

It's to your credit you resisted the impulse. There's more reward in Heaven for he who resists the cutting comment than he who is not tempted towards it at all.

No, comment away. Taste is shaped, and sometimes the shaping is done with delicate strokes of a fine steel wool pad and sometimes it is done with a jack hammer.

There are times when you might think, "oh, the jack hammer approach will just close them up," and it might, but it also might leave a deep realization that some things need shaping up.

While this approach cannot be done on the internet, my favorite tool is the shocked glance, or, in its gentler form, the slightly raised eyebrow. It has worked wonders.

Dear Eric,

This would posit that I would have the authority to do so. And to some extent that is presumption.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 9, 2006 4:32 PM.

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