Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Beauty

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The following was partly inspired by a research paper that I presented in Berlin last year on the topic of 21st century aesthetics:

Ah, Beauty, who thinks of you now? Forlorn and forgotten, you lie like Ozymandias, abandoned in the desert of antediluvian dreams. No longer the font of truth, you’ve become the lackey of branding and celebrity, simultaneously the sad embodiment of dumbed down consumer culture and old guard sexism. Yet still, I long for you, even if, like Orpheus, my wistful gaze should prove fatal to us both.

Once, artists laboured to render you in stone, employing armies of models in your service. Now, in the 21st century, even as we deny you, we continue to honour that process of beautification through digital technologies. Now, with a simple mouse click, an uninspired sunrise morphs into fireworks, an unexceptional face turns otherworldly, a drab, contemporary street bursts into vibrancy. The contemporary exploration of ugliness and chaos, so popular in books, movies and games becomes a meditation on you, Beauty, in your absence; the eternal struggle between good and evil, the yin and yang of order versus chaos played out in digital strawberry fields. Now, even the most challenged can achieve virtual immortality, for it is the same mathematical principals that create the digital sunrise that once guided the ancients in their golden quest of you.

As Sir Kenneth Clark once observed “Although we no longer suppose that God is like a beautiful man, we still feel close to divinity in those flashes of self-identification when, through our own bodies, we seem to be aware of a universal order.” Even as we reject you, still you reside deep within us.

For me, beauty is more than aesthetic enhancement or mathematical golden rules. It is not about fashion spreads, laws of triangles or mind-blowing fractals. Beauty is about human happiness, the kind found in wellness and well-being, work/life balance, nurturing relationships and just governments. It is about writing too, that dramatic push and pull between protagonist and antagonist, justice versus injustice and love versus hate. So, Beauty, even if science informs us that we are mere specks in an indifferent universe, speeding inexorably toward certain destruction, I still seek comfort in your warm embrace.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

David Tucker

David Tucker is an award-winning television writer, producer and director. His short story collection, One Way Ticket, is published by BookLand Press.

Go to David Tucker’s Author Page