Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

It is commonly held by apologists for modern and postmodern mysticism that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and therefore the whole matter beyond dispute, beyond reason, and ergo of no interest whatsoever.

There is also a small, aggressive, abrasive and vile school of thought which holds that all art is a political statement, by which is mean not a statement about the justice and beauty of ordering the polity to serve the greater good, but a statement about the sadomasochistic power struggle between oppressor and oppressed. These freakish jackals do not mean by the word ‘politics’ what we mean.

Like most untruths, the myth of beauty being in the eye of the beholder is partially true. By the same token, it is mostly untrue.

There are three ways in which it is partly true and mostly untrue that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

beholder belle

Oh, C’mon! You were THINKING it!

The first is surface features rather than essentials.

If one man prefer Mary Anne to Ginger as his ideal of sexual attractiveness, that is a difference in taste regarding surface features. He prefers brunettes to redheads, country girls to glamor girls: but someone sexually attracted to six year old Shirley Temple is a pervert.


Again, if a classical music fan prefers Vivaldi to Beethoven, or Baroque to Romantic, that involves surface features. But someone who calls atonal experimental noises or the banging and jabbering of modern performances ‘music’ is perverting his judgement. It may have a beat or make soothing noises, but wallpaper is not a portrait.

Likewise, here, a connoisseur who prefers Michelangelo to Leonardo da Vinci expresses a difference in taste; someone who prefers a an unmade bed or a can of shit to Leonardo da Vinci is a pervert.

The second is a difference between art and entertainment.

I may prefer J-pop to classical opera, because my tastes are plebeian (not to mention juvenile and geekish), but this does not effect my judgment, which is more objective, which forces me to acknowledge there is more beauty, more craftsmanship, and more thought behind Wagner’s Ring, than behind the Anime theme song Space Symphony Infinite Love by Momoiro Clover Z (

The modern mind does not acknowledge any criterion of judgment aside from personal preference, which it takes as an absolute. Now, no matter how much I like seeing Japanese schoolgirls on space bicycles sing science fiction love songs, Space Symphony Infinite Love is a tune I listen to so that it can serve me. I am bigger than this song. No one is awed by the girl band Clover Z.

Wagner’s Ring, particularly the first and third operas, is so profound and so sublime that I approach something bigger than I am when I enter into it, and I do to learn, and to be transformed, almost as one would approach a divine being. No one who is not awed by SIGFRIED is not listening.

When the matter deals with real events rather than mythical, and hence speak immediately to one’s own life, the affect of great art is all the more profound.

The third is that the modern mind conflates educating the taste with indoctrinating the taste.

For example, I could not understand Wagner when I was fourteen. It was simply over my head. On the other hand, there is nothing in any Beetle’s tune than cannot be understood by an average fourteen year old. I did not have to train or develop my tastes, or become sensitive to otherwise hidden nuances of beauty invisible to the novice, in order to get out of ‘I LOVE YOU YA YA YA’ everything there is to get out of it.

The modern mind fundamentally misunderstands the education process.  Moderns talk as if it is programming a blank computer or chalking up a blank slate  rather than watering a rosebud to make it grow into a rose. The idea that education is not all powerful, but limited to bringing into reality what and only what exists in potential is alien to their thinking.

They don’t argue against it or dismiss it as much as have their eyes go blank when the topic is brought up, almost as if they see no hope for salvation for man if the power of education to mold utterly plastic and passive mankind is anything less than omnipotent. This quaint yet disturbing vacancy of expression when the question rears up, however droll, is not directly pertinent to the present point.

The point is that the moderns dismiss the idea that some tastes are developed and some are undeveloped. They seem to think that education is consent to some arbitrary act of the will. Winston Smith is ‘educated’ by Big Brother when he yields his mind to Big Brother to condition him with any thoughts the overwhelming strength and terror of Big Brother can force Winston Smith to internalize. That is the modern view of education: it is the psychological analogy of a rape resulting in a pregnancy and a new child.

The matter grows more complicated when dealing with works of art from outside one genre, where the protocols and presumptions of the audience are unknown, and grows monstrously difficult, perhaps insuperable, when dealing with the artworks of Oriental or Primitive cultures, whose most fundamental assumption and judgments are alien to the Occidental mind. I am tempted to say one must learn to see and think as a Japanese, or practically become Japanese, before one can savor the beauty in a Noh play.


And yet even here we are dealing with expressions of human universals found in all drama, and even at its most alien, an incomprehensible Noh play has a core that a Westerner, if he studies, can come to understand.

Modern Art, however, has no core and cannot be made comprehensible. We are not dealing with an expression of a human universal, but with a gross or crass or wrathful rejection of everything human when we find an unmade bed, a can of shit, a crucifix in urine, or a severed cow head bejeweled with maggots in a Modern Art Museum.

In sum, the reason why modern says beauty is in the eye of the beholder is that they would prefer to live in the universe were beauty is not a divine reality to be sought, explored, and discovered by talent and toil.

They would prefer to live in a universe where beauty is an  act of the will by the artist which can make ugliness beautiful by an act of decree.

A man can make a severed cow head a portrait by sheer act of decree, or a string of rhymeless nonsense words or exclamation points into a poem, or stream of consciousness nonsense into a novel, or literally random notes and noises into a symphony, all by sheer power of arbitrary say-so.

They are like little children who play at pretend, saying something is so by saying so. The difference is that children know better. The difference is that modern man actually thinks (or, to be precise, gets a blank look in his eye and self-induces momentary cognitive arrest when confronted by any evidence contradicting the thought) that he can decree himself to reside in the universe he prefers in truth by pretending hard enough. And one of the things he pretends is that his pretenses have the power to decree the universe, like the Creator calling Light into being by His almighty fiat.

Oddly enough, all these wrong and absurd modern ideas about beauty spring from absurd and wrong modern ideas about the nature of the soul, of desire, and of the role of man.

The modern believes the soul is a blank slate, a machine, or a lump of nothing molded by blind Darwinian forces, arbitrary genetic mutations and processes, or molded by the wise and all powerful elite for the benefit of the coming utopia. Only someone foolish enough to believe the soul is a blank and helpless slate to be written upon by blind nature or all seeing Caesar would be fool enough to tell living souls that rubbish and offal is art.

The modern believes desire is and should be selfish, or, if unselfish, serve the state or the world-destiny defined by biology or defined by some scientific procedure. The idea of using art to remove the scales from one’s own eyes and grow out of selfishness into the sublime is incomprehensible to them. To the selfish fool, for whom the self is the universe, hearing talk of stepping outside oneself is as incomprehensible as hearing talk of stepping outside the universe. The modern makes no distinction between appetites and passions, base and noble desires, love and lust.

There is no sense of passions we are meant to serve rather than meant to serve us. For them, the word ‘meant’ is puzzling and problematic. Nothing has meaning in their lives, according to their philosophy, except one’s own arbitrary will makes it so.

The reason why not just one fine art but all of them, from music to poetry to sculpture to novels to dance, suddenly went moon-barking raving frothing mad, all across Europe and in the same generation is simple: that was the generation that decreed God was Dead.

Beauty comes from God, points to God, and leads us to God. With no God, beauty comes from nowhere, leads to nothing, and has no point. Which is exactly the state of the arts and rubbish heaps and outhouses of the modern world.

Craftsmanship and moments of beauty exist in commercial entertainments, such as movies and novels, and album covers or calendars or wall posters give modern commercial man some reminder  of the fair things and soul-enlarging beauty without which life is airless and solitary confinement behind gray slabs topped with razor wire.

But commercial art is meant to be pretty and pleasant, not to lead men to God, and true art is reached only by commercial art that defies the world, all worldly logic, all commercial calculation and all seeming common sense the world to do so — hence the unexpected success of Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS. Which, I rejoice to report, is still a puzzlement is not a thorn in the eye of the literary establishment. LORD OF THE RINGS is the only modern work worthy of joining the cannon of Great Books headed by Homer.

Why so much ugliness? Why such an endlessness of dreary dreck? Why such an astonishing contrast to all the previous generations, and all their genius, and all their love of display and finery and fair things to please the eye and ear? It would be like seeing a thousand generations of tall and handsome royal families give forth in one generation, every single queen mother and married princess, without exception, to hairless and squealing baboons, and then all the thrones for the next hundred years are occupied by dog-faced primates with matted fur who shriek and show their canines and who fling poo from beneath the ermine robes far too long for them — and no one says anything. Even in a fairy tale, one could not explain such a curse.

bab king

Without a theory that explains the facts and gives meaning to the evidence, the world turns into a meaningless heap of concrete events with no connective tissue, no cause and effect, no goal. All music turns to noise.

The modern theory of reality is wrong. Their theory is that God is dead. The reality is that God is alive but the arts are dead.