31 March 2022

Thomas Aquinas at the Pharmacy

At some point in my otherwise mundane morning of running errands at the pharmacy, it crossed my mind while waiting at the counter that we all need Greatness in Art because without it we have no guidelines, no markers to judge Art. And I am speaking of an Art of equally horizontal and vertical means. 

Without Greatness (decidedly with a capital G) we are like voyagers at sea on a cloudy night without the North Star guiding us. And I know this may sound quite strained to point out but I fear that this cannot be underlined enough.

And in the sphere of politics and leadership it is also indeed relevant. Look at the invasion of Ukraine by the dictator of Russia. This is as much a travesty of human behavior as is an atrocious work of Art. I do not understand why journalists and politicians in the West call it a war, for it is an invasion, a war is declared by two, (or three parties). Ukraine never declared war on Russia but it defends itself like a small Morandi in the corner of large museum wing.

So what is Greatness? In Artistic terms one can think of what Thomas Aquinas wrote regarding Art way back in the 13th century.

“Art is the measuring stick for Art”, he wrote.

It speaks volumes of the whole big damn sky of  everything under the Tuscan sun, and yet, he declared nothing more or nothing less with such acute brevity so many centuries ago. He means that Greatness will dictate Greatness as sternly as quality begets qualityBut we have to understand Greatness and quality first. And for that we need an education, in this case an education in Art.

And what happens if we lose sight of it and we get lost? Like maybe getting on the wrong train to somewhere other than where one intends. Or, getting on the right train but suddenly thwarted by thugs or terrorists even? 

What if this derailment begins, like in a game of Chinese Whispers, as Greatness only to end up as Suffering Suckatash at the end after having going around the dinner table? This is what happens when education fails us and disintegrates leaving its roots to rot away over successive generations. It becomes the Blind Leading the Blind. And if you don't believe me, look around at any Art school.

But what if, through Capitalism itself, Greatness just slinks away from the table altogether when money is disguised as the arbiter of both Greatness and Quality?

What happens to us when we no longer know how to recognize a really good book because we have forgotten how to read one? And what about Painting? Have we forgotten how to look and feel, just because we have forgotten how to see? 

And what happens to us morally when we fail to act against tyrants even if we have been tyrants ourselves in the past?

All this went through my mind whilst waiting for my prescription to be filled at the counter this morning.

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