Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Toward an Enlightened Aesthetic 3

Last night I viewed a documentary about Mel Brooks.  He said his comedy comes from knowing how much we each love ourselves.  Comedy always requires a disjunction of some kind, so I think, implicitly, comedy must also come from our not being aware of how much we love ourselves -- or, perhaps at times, from how much the universe seems not to agree with our opinion of ourselves.

So what does this have to do with an enlightened aesthetic? 

Lately, I've become aware, for myself, of the truth of Brooks' insight.  There is that tenderness for ourselves in ourselves that no one else can match.  When we are babies, we know automatically how precious we are, how nothing really matters except me.  But then we grow up, and we are often socialized to believe, not just that we must share with others for practical purposes, but that there is something wrong with the basic belief I am really what is important.  In the end, the love we have for ourselves is also the love we have for the rest of creation, since we are that creation.  And if we cannot love ourselves, that flow of love gets cut off at its source and violence, either of thought or of deed, is the result. 

So the writer who knows this -- the writer who is in touch with this aspect of being human -- will see not only the comedic elements in it but also the tragic.  Self-hatred is, indeed, the origin of pretty much all of what we call evil in the world, and a wise writer sees how that arises.