In college, my mother told me, she took courses in art history. She took them in the same way that high school students might take cooking -- because they were easy. My mother could write and art history was a matter of language. Or, as she put it more bluntly, "it's bullshit," an assessment one of her professors concurred with when she put it to him.
Strange how the visceral longing for and delight in what is beautiful or compelling inspires schools of thought, reams of philosophy, endless imitation. Today there is the story about the discovery of a copy of the Mona Lisa . The Mona Lisa is considered a master work. A thing of rare beauty. A stunning example of ... whatever it's a stunning example of.
How many times has anyone heard the phrase repeated ... Mona Lisa's "enigmatic smile?" And perhaps the Mona Lisa is something to touch the heart. But I wonder what a kid would say -- a kid who didn't have a clue as to what "enigmatic" meant. Maybe the kid might say, "It's a picture of a lady." That appeals to me, since at least it seems to be true... meaning not bullshit.
For all that, still there are things of beauty that touch the heart. Not all hearts. Not universally. But your heart or mine. And what's the first thing we want to do with such extraordinary occurrences? Don't we long to maintain and repeat that sense of beauty -- hold it tight and pretend it can be perfectly preserved in its first upending moments of ahhhhhhh. A painting, a kiss, a hot shower after a hard day, a drink of water in the midst of thirst, a wondrous saint who opens us like a walnut ... hold on, hold tight, seek to repeat, create a religion ... onward into a world of ... bullshit.
Because of course it can't be held. It may be grist for the world of art history or religion or some other carefully constructed cage, but it simply cannot be held. And yet perhaps it is the best we can do -- build cages of bullshit in an attempt to recreate or rediscover that sense of awe and wonder that once moved all mountains. However fancy and refined, still the heroin addict's creed comes to mind: "If one's good, two's better." Only of course there is no "two." There is no replicating. Life is a one-off ... now and now and now and now.... There is no replicating and there is no universal agreement -- no superglue to nail down the present.
But that doesn't stop anyone from trying. Nailing Jell-O to the wall seems to be a part of the DNA. And I guess the best that can be said for it is that if you do it often enough and unsuccessfully enough, then it may become a cause for reflection. If you can't nail Jell-O to a wall, why bother? What would life be like without expending all that energy trying to replicate what cannot be replicated ... your beating heart, your life filled with the opportunity to be ... ahhhhhh.
Why settle for replication when the real thing is staring you in the face?