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Of Gods And Men

Posted by acdtest on October 17, 2003

Of Gods And Men

f all the postmodern idiocies floated in today’s culture perhaps the most idiot — and most pernicious — is the leveling mindset that insists on denying authorship of an artwork to the creator of that artwork. Expression of that mindset goes something along these lines:

[T]here’s little that peeves me as much as the determined hero-worshipping that seems so strong a part of the modernist/romantic ethos — all that titanic-genius, lone-creator crap.

A little reality, please. We all depend on inherited forms and techniques, as well as on the work of others; we all need a culture within which to operate; we all count on and learn from friends, family, spouses, teachers, audiences, partners, associates, etc. Nobody comes up with everything.

[…]

[Y]ou’d think that by now people would be comfortable with the idea that not all artworks are the product of a single individual. An extreme example: the temples at Angkor Wat, built by thousands of hands over many centuries.

[…]

[Why is it that some people are] devoted to viewing their favorite artists more as gods than as people?

All sounds perfectly rational, doesn’t it. I mean, who, for instance, could argue with the truth of what’s stated in that second graf? Certainly not I. Problem is, it completely misses, and is in fact totally irrelevant to, the fundamental nature of creative genius, the very idea of which is repugnant, even anathema, to this leveling, ressentiment-laden (using the term in the Nietzschean sense), postmodern mindset; one that’s in opposition to the clear witness of history. That witness tells us that, without exception, every genuinely great work of art is indisputably the product of the mind of a single individual, Angkor Wat or, more pertinently, Chartres very much included, notwithstanding that “thousands of hands over many centuries [or decades]” were responsible for turning the concept of that single individual — that unique creative genius — into stone-hard reality. Citizen Kane, to use a more contemporary and closer to home example, involved the labor of dozens of talented craftsman to realize as a film. But without the ordering concept and vision of the creative genius of Orson Welles it could never have been the supreme work of cinematic art that it is, or even have existed at all. Ditto in spades the symphonies of Beethoven, or the plays of Shakespeare, or the music-dramas of Wagner. The examples are virtually inexhaustible, and the examples supporting the ressentiment-laden claims of the postmodernist levelers, nonexistent.

That “[w]e all depend on inherited forms and techniques, as well as on the work of others, [and] …need a culture within which to operate” is indisputable. The difference is that, unlike the rest of us, the mind of the creative genius alone has the capacity to assimilate it all, and, godlike, transform it — transfigure would be the more apt term — into a new and transcendent reality; one capable of providing the rest of us with our only glimpse, however fleeting, of what we, for want of a better term, call the Divine.

“The very rich are different from you and me,” said Hemingway famously. In no human domain is that more true than in the domain of the creative. The very rich — and very rare — in that domain are the creative geniuses, and they are as different from you and me as we are from a houseplant — or a god.

Get over it.

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