Religion Imitates Art: Christian Self-Love and Buddhist Non-Self…

img_0953“Man is the measure of all things”…and there began our downfall, this from the Greek Sophist Protagoras and his very sophisticated argument that we human beings are the only thing that matters in this world, our silly views and opinions superior to all others, of course, by virtue of our virtue, and in spite of our spite, the pathological needs of humanity, a sort of radical solipsistic relativism…

This argument only works with a strong belief and need for self, arguably the origin of consciousness, i.e. self-consciousness, and any further extrapolations indicative of the direction our culture has taken since then, hence our pathological need for democracy, free enterprise, a TV in every room and a car in every garage, every aspect an extension of, and ultimate belief in ourselves, each one of us totally different, supposedly, with or without the bar-code, identified by fingerprints and the DNA from random salivations and assorted misgivings…

Am I the only one who thinks that the celebration of the human body in European art is a bit absurd? Is that really what life is all about, the glorification of ourselves as masters of the universe and the measure of all things? I think that’s rather unfortunate, since for me life in this world is always first and foremost about ‘the other’, and you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find similar sympathies among the world’s other great cultures. Still we wonder why their relationship with us is such a conflicted love/hate one…

In great Asian art we find elaborate calligraphy, occasional hagiography, true, and lush brushed landscapes, tentative visions with rarely a person crowding the scene with his or her problems and preconceived notions. Ditto great Islamic art, with calligraphy and geometry, abstraction and introspection, but rarely ever attached to a body with feelings and appendages, and any representation of God or the Prophet (pbuh) absolutely prohibited by law and tradition…

European art, on the other hand, is full of breasts and penises, just like tribal art, with its fertility rites and thinly-veiled allusions, sex superstitions and fear, with the rites of spring not far behind, seeds and psychoses and the seminal starter culture of mankind, molecular recombination, nuclear DNA and bacterial peasantry in service to the Big Man downtown, human beings celebrating themselves and their triumphs, every note sung a victory lap for the winners…

This goes all the way back to the Greeks and Romans, of course, with the human body in general as a subject second only to likenesses of the great historical figures, something common to all artistic traditions, of course, and obviously so, since the were always the most likely and well-endowed patrons of such art. But the European always seemed particularly obsessed with the naked body…

Then the righteous Middle Agers came along and lopped all the penises off the Greek statues, a fact which arouses no shortage of horror to modern art lovers and aficionados, and to which I offer no specific opinion, because for me the question is not why anybody would trim the extremities off private parts which are no longer private, but why this is the subject of art in the first place? Do we really have no more profound emotions to express or artistic visions to promote than ourselves and our body parts?

The American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe thought not, of course, and famously so, but most do, and ‘figure drawing’ is usually relegated to sophomoric sojourns these days, probably the appropriate forum for the exposition of peepees, poopoos, innies and outies, foreskins and boobies in all their natural glory. After all, we’re past our tribal fertility rites by now, aren’t we? Aren’t we? Hmmm, kinda sorta maybe, unless they’re descending a staircase or something cool like that…

But then there arise issues of sexual identity, and so LGBTQA’s are granted special dispensation to indulge in those bodily functions beyond the normal sophomoric sojourn, since theirs is an issue of identity, not sexuality, per se, hardly necessary with seven going on ten billion mofo’s on the planet now, with no end in sight, and little place left to put them all, just sympathetic magic for capitalist production and libidinous consumption, consume it like it really means something, just like it used to, back when we were young…

Buddhism has no selves, of course, part of the doctrine of dependent origination, probably most easily described as ‘all things connected’, thus nothing is truly independent. And while this may contradict common sense, it is certainly not the need of any philosophy or religion to make the case for common sense. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that there is a higher consciousness than self-consciousness, or that there are higher needs than selfish ones…

Selfish! There’s that nasty word and the main reason we need to ‘get over ourselves’, grow up and see the greater good beyond. So our generalized American and European porn culture is maybe best understood as a tribal vestige, the last gasps of pubescent youth from a civilization with growing pains and no path to maturity, no apologies and no exit, and this is what we want the rest of the world to accept as our supreme vision, our superior status as world leaders in service to the rest, God help us, get a clue, buy a vowel, something anything, before it’s too late…

Advertisements