Pre-4th-of-July discussion on Aesthetics
I sometimes make these when I'm bored: pixel art shapes. This one represents different colored bubbles interacting with no clear pattern. It reminds me of an old animated movie I watched a couple times as a kid called The Secret of Nimh. Besides the undertones of science vs nature vs mystery, what the movie really offers is an appeal to aesthetics. To my young child self, this film was as impactful to me as the Memphis Group was to 80's design. TSON electrified my sense of marvel about the beautiful.
What decides the hypnotic essences deep within peculiar gemstones or glass sculptures or glowing glass cages submerged underwater? What's the importance in being memorized?
In my brief searches on online comments sections and psychology studies and opinion articles, the only answer really reached is a tautology: "umm, we like it because it's beautiful, duh.."
But that's really not an answer, is it? There must be some part of the human brain that derives pleasure from finding patterns in light or depth or something, or that marvels at the curiosity around how light bends. Maybe its the tranquility that sends our brain to a sort of limbo or unconsciousness, like an optical illusion. I haven't researched much into it, and it raises fascinating questions about why anxiety arises from a pencil being crooked on a table. What evolutionary feature, or cultural passdown, or animalistic characteristic subtlety urges us to correct it. IT'S FUCKING INSANE!!
I've been reflecting on stimulus for the past few months: addiction, over-indulgence, numbness, etc. It's still odd that the warmth that you feel on your back lying down in not-too-hot sand as the wind picks up and chills you down is in fact radiation from the sun. It's just electromagnetic energy X-ray propagating wavelength of a laserbeam that makes your back tingle. It's odd, because for so long the only explanation for my back feeling amazing and warm was because "I was in the sun." Light is only a form of energy slowing down as it passes from medium to medium. . chilling.
If you believe this is the world's first and ONLY shot—the big bang explodes, and entropy increases until we burn out per se in some silent darkness—then life is a bit like a firework in that darkness. But there are cooler, less stupidly bleak theories. What about a reverse big bang, if some space time thing bent in some way and we ping-ponged back and forth from big bang to its reverse. We'd be immortal! Then, instead of a firework, we'd be more of a continuous loop. Like a waterfall, or some endless fountain of bent water. I guess you'd have the existentialists whining about being trapped inside the M.C. Escher painting that was this hell of an existence. Not even suicide could cure the pain of the human existence if it keeps on being reincarnated. Hey, life's not too bad, as long as you have some sweet tea with a little blue umbrella in it, or you're on a jet ski.
I'm banking on one "perhaps" here: perhaps there's a better explanation for our fascination with aesthetics. The explanation lay in the ineffable, the mysterious, the strange and unexplainable. Religion has many purposes, one of which is to explain the unexplainable. Yet religion is just as unexplained: who created the god that created us? Before we say "paradox is a bitch" and give up, consider the asymptote. In MATHEMATICS, oh yeah!, you have this very curious son of a bitch called the asymptote. Now in calculus we supposedly deal with infinity and approaching it and all of that nonsense, but the asymptote isn't some theoretical construct of the human imagination. It is—as I truly believe—as logical a construct as physics at the non-quantum level. We understand it and it works errytime. But here's the fucking catch, and here's why it's so cool.
IT GOES TO INFINITY, AND THEN IT COMES BACK DOWN.
How can that happen? That's like adding 1 to Aleph Null and getting something bigger than just, Aleph Null. Now imagine space like it's a big circle, or rather an oval, right.
Maybe we look to aesthetics to find answers to some deeper, more complex and troubling problem: existenc—fuck no I'm not writing that, that's waaaay too reading into things. There's probably a psychological reason that helped our ancestors survive.
Or perhaps aesthetics is like music: it appeals to us even when we are at our most unreasonable. For example, perhaps you're ticked off and you listen to some music and it alters your mood. Excuses or logic or talking it out most likely would have no effect on altering your mood if you're mad. No, I don't want to hear WHY the bus is 2 hours late, that won't help me feel better! But music can somehow reach us, and so can art, and so can aesthetics. Aside from that, I guess the appeal of the beautiful goes too far into semantics and psychology and evolutionary biology for me to attempt an answer. But that doesn't matter, because the best stories propose questions about the secrets of the universe, and don't try to get at their answers. Sandman, for instance.
I bring this up because it is going to be the fourth of july soon, and you may see some fireworks that sparkle briefly then explode into the oblivion, and you may think about all the people staring vacuously up into the night sky watching the gunpowder and dye, and you may ask what the point of all of it is. I'll tell you that it's not about America, not really. It's about some celebration, however pointless. Funny, because it's practically the same as watching matches wilt as they burn out and puff out smoke in some smooth trail of grey.
In the awe-invoking essay The Meaning of it All, Richard Feynman (a crucial scientist working on the Atomic Bomb) says "...the imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man. No one who did not have some inkling of this through observations could ever have imagined such a marvel as nature is." He also says, in perhaps the most badass quote or anecdote—considering the fact that he worked on a city-obliterating bomb— . . . this.
"Once in Hawaii I was taken to see a Buddhist temple. In the temple a man said, "I am going to tell you something that you will never forget." And then he said, "To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven. The same key opens the gates of hell.""
So it is the Fourth of July soon, and those colorful bombs will explode in the air with some ineffable beauty. Those same keys open the gates to hell, we could blow up the earth at any moment. But we won't, I think. The big bang was also an explosion, and that wasn't too bad.