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hardnesses of the labor on which our civilization rests, but with the rottenness, dulness, and absurdity of the leisure which it makes possible. The industrial millennium has not arrived. But what depresses those concerned for the future of our life on this side of the Atlantic is what that millennium would be like if it did arrive. They have their suspicions, drawn largely from an observation of what preoccupies the time of those economically on the yonder side of Paradise. Lewis Mumford in his striking "Story of Utopias" points out that the implicit and controlling ideal of our civilization is the Country House, with all that it implies of the way life should be lived. If the measure of our civilization is to be found by what we do or would wish to do with our leisure, we are convicted, most of the critics assure us and with painfully accurate justice of doing with it nothing or worse than nothing. They insist that the tempo of our life is Philistine, and that it lacks the quality, the presence, or the possibility of art. Our leisure is as regimented as our labor. Our amusements are as compulsory and as standardized as our work. It is not golf they object to, but the whole regimental rigmarole of the country club. They do not bemoan the radio, but the jazzy disintegration of the radio programs. It is not that we are pressed and penniless; but that having, by current standards, the major wealth and leisure of the world, we live in luxurious barracks, find pleasure in excited and standardized revues, and have neither the individual passion of producing nor the private peace of enjoying art.
For these critics, art and beauty have indeed become the new religion. Having nothing much left to believe in in the way of a world to come, they look for something to cling to in the
world about them. In the middle of the nineteenth century, along with those optimistic giants of reason, Comte and Mill, they and we might have evolved for ourselves sufficient faith and exuberance in the possibilities of progress to have founded and found spiritual satisfaction in a religion of humanity. The war and the peace -have disillusioned us. The prophets of sensitive despair have fled to the ivory tower. In the exquisite cultivation of beautiful moments, they have found the only hope of grace in a graceless world. The concert hall has become the new cathedral, in which sounds without meaning have been found to be the only pure pleasures in a meaningless world.
But those who flee to art have a profounder reason. They have shaken off the rusty shackles of old foolish moralities, and they have, in a latter day paganism, discovered anew the Greek identity between the beautiful and the good. What is good is not what was commanded by a law no longer believed in. What is good is what is moving to the senses, emotions, and the mind. For art comes to us, in Pater's famous phrase, proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to the moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake. And in the perfect moments of pure pleasure in color, word or sound, or the free and perfect spontaneity of artistic production, prophets of the newest paganism see not only a stimulation but a morality, not merely a pleasure but a religion.
Meanwhile the average man in the street has become increasingly suspicious of and insensitive to art as a thing, a life, a cult. There is no question that in America, for many intelligent minds, art is a foolish epithet adored by effeminate sillies. It is
associated with museums that one never enters and books that one never - voluntarily-reads. It is profound, unctuous, and essentially unimportant. It is as serious as a religious service, and as dull. Or it is an embroidered dissipation indulged in by elegant wastrels. It suggests the sultry nonsense of the fin de siècle and the worst of Oscar Wilde. The wholesome, normal, full blooded he-man with the tangible goods of swift motors, weekend golf, and the rattat intoxication of jazz, sniffs at museums, concert halls, and libraries with all their dull and deadly arts. If he tolerates art at all, it is with the breeziest of the intellectuals in their canonization of the lively arts of jazz, vaudeville, and the comic strip.
The wholesome hearties who feel the futility of much irrelevant prettifying that passes for art, are expressing a certain justice in their reactions. Many who produce or are absorbed in the fine arts in our generation are having the experience, not of art, but of daydreaming. When poetry degenerates into a thin playing with irrelevant verbal music, it is not an art but a tinkling escape from the major concerns of life. It is a flight to fantoms and arabesques from a civilization left no less brutalized and unadorned. Nothing could be more wan and depressing than an evening spent with a group of people whose only concerns are with the choice between mauve color and rose, and who have no life outside the exquisite titillations of the fine arts. Their passions seem puerile and their subject matter nil. One understands why Bernard Shaw believes that in a really adult civilization, like that pictured in the last part of "Back to Methuselah", art would take its place along with other toys proper to children. The Sancho Panzas of our day are not complete fools, no more so than
was their original. They know there are more important concerns for living men than the tinkle of a rhyme or the last nuance of a color. They are justly suspicious of those who think there are not.
Yet one can believe that in the quarrels between the æsthetes and the hearties, the meaning of art in its widest human sense has been forgotten. They have both failed to see in art that which has made the most profound and vertebrate of thinkers, from the Greeks down, find in it the type and pattern of civilized achievement. They must both fail to understand why these same thinkers have found that a civilization without beauty was not a civilization at all. Oddly enough, the call to art as the type of perfect experience and perfected life has come in our generation most urgently not from an æsthete at all. It is Havelock Ellis, after a lifetime of frank and mellow survey of all the depths and radiations and heights of human passion, who has pleaded for beauty as a criterion of morals and art as the most expressive and generous pattern of life.
It was Aristotle who long ago fixed the most significant and pregnant meaning of art. He contrasted it with nature; it is artfulness or artifice; what man does to nature; it is what man does to a nature which was not made for him, but which he must accommodate himself to and subject to his own best uses. Bridging a river or broiling a steak are instances of art in its simplest and most rudimentary sense. All civilization is in essence an art; human intelligence applied to the conditions of nature, and human dreams turned through the technique of sciences and institutions into something like order and delight. If without government, as Hobbes insisted, life would be "poor, nasty, brutish and
short", government is only one of the arts by which the human animal has turned his instincts into beneficent methods, and the chaos of his environment into a tolerable order. The step from the bearable to the beautiful is not very far. The fine arts are simply those arts in which what is done is done beautifully and for its own sweet sake. The sheer unquestionable and unquestioned joy of beholding a beautiful thing, and the liberating activity of producing it, have been regarded throughout recorded history as among the clear and impeccable goods of life.
The call to art is thus not at all a call. to burial in a museum or stultification in a concert hall. It is merely a reminder that in the ways of creation that we call art and the objects we call beautiful are the instances of what we might wish our lives and our society to be continually like. Often before a still life we are caught in a moment's act of vision that is instant and absolute peace. It is such serenity as love and friendship at moments provide, and which a more generous order of society might make more continually possible. In listening to the ordered march, momentum, and disciplined passion that is Brahms's "First Symphony", we have a sense of what life, if its conditions were both more sensible and more spontaneous, might be like.
What troubles and justly troubles - the critics about our civilization is not that people fail to buy books and pictures and talk the High Lingo of the nouveau art. What troubles them is that the sense for beauty and the demand for it are so notably absent and so little cultivated in our lives. What is needed is not so much new museums to bore more Philistines. What is demanded is a type of education and morale that will make beauty
regarded as less of an effete stranger in our midst.
The artist knows that what gives his work and his life reality is individuality. He resents that standard mechanization of life that deprives lives of anything of a personal signature, or character. Some years ago, Helen Marot suggested that we make room in industry for something she suggestively called the "creative impulse". Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton sentimentalize much about the days when each handicraftsman put his own individual and unique touch upon his own work which he saw through from its design to its finish. Perhaps that is impossible for a civilization committed to quantity and machine reproduction. But certainly there could be more room for freedom, individuality, in our teaching, our writing, and our ideas in a civilization that did not put a premium upon standardized things, patterns, and ideas in everything from collars to cantatas.
Art for Philistia should begin with something more fundamental than courses in art or provision for artistic training, though it is curious how completely, for the most part, our universities have made provision for everything but the imaginative life. should be part of our education to train us to a sense of the æsthetic possibilities of acts and objects not commonly thought within the domain of art. It is part of our gospel of efficiency to have become careless of all the means and incidents in life that might become durably and pervasively beautiful. After a sojourn in England, the returning American is shocked by the extent to which speech with us has become simply a hard ugly method of getting things said. And how easily the words and cadences of our language might turn the daily intercourse of our lives
into something itself possessing the quality of an arresting delight! Perhaps, again, in a subwayed and radioed and Fordized civilization, courtesy and grace of manner in social relations would appear too effete and eighteenth century an importation. But the connection between manners and morals is something more than accidental; the form of doing and what is done, like the form and content in music, are indissolubly wedded to each other. No civilization can be lovely in attainments, the quality of whose daily living is ugly.
In his latest volume of "Impressions and Comments" Havelock Ellis becomes almost bitter in his denunciation of the extent to which our civilization has wandered from the path of beauty. He is forever contrasting a beautiful moment in love, in ecstasy of the dance, or in the sight of sea gulls flying, with the tawdriness and horror of our architecture, our cities, and our social relations.
There is cause for bitterness, no doubt. But cause, too, for hope. Never before since the sunny freedom of the Greeks was there more of a chance to have the attitude of the artist and the ideals of art become the criteria and centres of our lives. are freed from many of the outworn stupidities and hypocrisies. We know perfectly well that whatever divinity we dream, it is only our own artful intelligence that can convert it into the realities of our lives. The new morale, if it is to be at all, will be a universal art of life. Through such an art we may turn the turbid stream of living into something colorful, fluent, and free.
There are many forces making in the direction of treating life as a problem in art. Not the least of these is the habituation even of Philistia to the cadence, the clarity, and the serenity of beauty. Somewhere Plato speaks of
life as a listening, a listening to a fine music whose intervals are too subtle for the casual and promiscuous ear. It is perhaps not too fantastic to suppose that the way in which music seems genuinely to have made its way in America, may augur well for the future sweetness and fluency of life on this continent. An imagination attuned to the beautiful precisions of music will not remain long patient with the major discords of life. The harmony of the musician may win us to the view of making something more of a harmony of our society and our lives. We may come to hate hate, condemn misunderstanding, and social inequalities, not because they are wrong but because they are ugly deformations on the face of our civilization.
There are signs even that painting, so long a stepchild in this country, and architecture, too, are coming into their own. There are beginning to be reared about us structures in steel and stone that will feed the eye and the imagination as well as house the worker and his work. There is, too, something wistful and hopeful in the way in which thousands stand rapt along the galleries of the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, listening to music among the marbles. And there is hope also in the very discontent which torments the rebel against Main Street who misses the space and splendor of the Place de la Concorde and the imagination which made them possible.
thought and in sound and in color, who are bit by bit displaying to us the ingredients of a beautiful world. There is so much of vitality, energy, and freshness in our civilization that is amenable to forms of beauty that no artist will flee the challenge. The sense for beauty can be continually fed by artists too busy creating beautiful things to curse an ugly environment. Nor does this mean that we shall turn into a nation of æsthetes fleeing from reality to arabesques. It will mean simply that habituation to the beautiful in art will be retroactive upon our lives.
Schiller long ago wrote some beautiful essays on the æsthetic education of man. We are just beginning to learn that to cultivate the ear, the eye, and the imaginations of our children, to educate them to beauty, is one of the easiest and most persuasive ways to convert them to the good. If we educate the children of Philistia to beauty, to its enjoyment and to its making, the civilization of the future will not only contain more beautiful things, but life in it will be something nearer to the creation, the rhythm, the freedom and discipline that is art.
By Jessica Nelson North
QUARRELED with the old dead where they were lying
As though when life was complete they had gone with joy to their dying,
As though they could not desire anything better than this,