LIVE IN BEAUTY / An Introduction to Polymathic Aestheticism

One of the most impactful yet also most overlooked aspects influencing a person’s actions is their worldview—the basic metanarrative ideology or ideologies they buy into. Regardless of how we reason things out, decisions often seem to come down to emotion or intuition based impulses originating from the basic values of a person’s ideology. Reasoning then, rather than being a primary decision factor, often acts as a tool for post-decision justification of the pre-prescribed biases inherent in a person's worldview.

Though we may say we desire to make rational, informed decisions there’s actually an advantage to acting in accordance with what one’s worldview dictates—it’s more expedient. If we have to sit and think about everything we do and what the logical consequences are between choice A and choice B, we’d never get anything done. Instead Ideologies come with pre-programmed sets of commands for how to act in most situations. Much like DNA being passed down, we inherit a certain worldview from our families or the cultural environment we find ourselves in and then readily know what to do or how to act without having to consult our rational faculties every time.

We may take on our parents politics or our communities religious ideals and like software running in the background they “program” our sentiments. Just as we don’t “see” the abstract software or the programming on a computer but rather only experience it’s results, e.g., the website, the video game on the monitor, so to do we often act upon our worldview without awareness of its influence on us. Like a fish unaware of what water is, we accept our worldview mostly without questioning it or being aware that an alternative may even exist. From afar it is easy to criticize the worldviews of others, especially of those who we are in conflict with, but when it comes to our own worldview, we are simply blinded by our beliefs.

In this way the Islamic extremist continue to terrorize their Christian brothers and sisters—liberals continue to be at odds with their conservative counterparts—and race, sexual orientation and gender civil rights advocates continue to push against the walls of a well established patriarchal hegemony.

It’s usually not until either something goes wrong with the way our lives are playing out, or we encounter other successful cultures with contradictory belief systems, that we begin to question our own worldview. We may turn to Religion or try a new religion in the midst of a divorce, a death or a mid-life crisis—or we may adopt the customs and beliefs of other cultures after spending some time in foreign lands. In our computing example above, when new problems arise or new technology or hardware is developed, there is also a need to rewrite and update the software driving the programs. The ideologies of old are akin to outdated software, unsuitable to answer to the demands or crises of this day and age.

We now live in a vastly different global terrain where there is an ongoing clash of cultures and easy access to exchange of ideas. New technologies are creating newly emergent problems on top of the old conflicts and therefore the need for solutions is in high demand. Most of what we get though is simply continued criticism of old ideological values with no real constructive solutions, e.g., the Occupy movement.

Can there be a better way? How are new ideologies constructed and embedded into societies? Do worldviews originate organically, in a natural passive process? Are they gifted to us by some higher, more powerful authority? Or can one actively create an ideology?

The project of Polymathic Aestheticism is an attempt find a better solution—to actively create a new, robust, constructive meta-ideology and set it in motion.

Virtruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci

Virtruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci

The Rise of a New Era

Religion and Spirituality had their chances during the ages of Classical Antiquity, Hellenism and the Roman era. The end result being the cultural and economic deterioration we call the “Dark Ages”. The Enlightenment brought us out of the dark with the promise of science acting as our new savior. The Sciences though, in collusion with The State together set the course for the outcome of the Modern Era—two world wars and an industrial/consumer driven unhealthy, and potentially catastrophic environmental situation.

We previously witnessed the ideologies of Postmodernism and Existentialism function as deconstructive critiques of the preceding Modern Era. This deconstruction challenged the dogmas of the Sciences, Religions and Governments, leaving us uncertain of any base for truth from which one can act from conviction. Continuing to build upon the unstable foundations that were exposed in the aftermath of these critiques, Polymathic Aestheticism aims to establish a constructive ideology that can provide us with a firm ground and the tools needed to navigate the new world.

The previous ideologies to this point have all been controlling, authoritative and oppressive. All have relied upon external forces that impose their will upon us. They are the equivalent of a parent’s dictatorship over their children or a master’s tyranny over their slaves. With the demise of these ideologies we now find ourselves all grown up and completely free. Meaning and value are nothing more than what we choose to make of them. As such, it becomes imperative that we learn to be efficient at creating value.

With Science, the Sacred or the State all having equal or no grounds for justification of where to build our ideologies for the future, the values we ought to emphasize now are creativity, originality and innovation—qualities more commonly associated with Aesthetics. For these reasons it is more appropriate to build the foundations of our new ideology upon The Arts.

The new age which is constructive and prizes liberation and creativity rather than deconstructive and oppressive in its nature can be aptly dubbed The Aesthetic Era—the age in which beauty reigns supreme.

Mature Aestheticism

This isn't the first time we've seen this approach. Similar to the original Aestheticism of the 19th Century, Polymathic Aestheticism concurs that beauty or aesthetic value is chief among all values and that life ought to be lived as to imitate the arts. However, we depart ways with the old school in how we define "aesthetic" value. Instead of the previous definition which limited aesthetics to its formal and sensual qualities, we seek to expand our understanding of aesthetic into many, if not all, qualities, categories and fields—hence the use of the term 'polymathic' to describe the new, mature version of Aestheticism.

From other movements in modern and contemporary art (especially Dada and Conceptual art of the 1960's) we've come to learn that beauty has no limits. It can apply to both inner and outer—it can be both ephemeral and ubiquitous. For example, a person can sit slouching or sit up straight. A mathematician can construct a busy proof or construct an efficient proof. The actions of uprightness and efficiency exemplify aesthetic applications, namely that of grace and elegance, in fields typically seen as banal or unrelated to formal arts. Is there an aesthetic of ethics? If so, in adopting this polymathic approach to aesthetics we can arrive at an Aestheticism that avoids dead ending in decadence.

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp

The Emphasis of Process

Elegance of thought is a form of beauty.

In the abstract realm of thought we are all sinners and saints, gods and murderers, champions and cheaters. It's the thoughts we choose to act upon on a daily basis that actually matter. Thoughts drive action, action creates character, repetitive action establishes reputation.

It's reputation that gives ground for trust and allows us to make judgments and set expectations.

Having beautiful thoughts that result in beautiful actions is of utmost importance to the project of Polymathic Aestheticism. One of the basic tenets of the ideology then is that it places a great emphasis on the process of reification—to bring forth from the abstract to make concrete.

The Emphasis of the Everyday

It is also of great importance that what is made manifest through one's actions be primarily directed at the everyday repetitive actions of individuals. Basic actions such as eating, sleeping, thinking, walking, sitting, working and socializing are the actions that are "lived" most often and therefore build a persons character and reputation the most.

Polymathic Aestheticism seeks to raise the bar of these basic, lived actions above their current bare minimum status, to the high standards typically reserved for the Arts. It seeks to inject the average everyday with a wave of beauty, creativity, originality, innovation and expression.

Thus we arrive at the mantra of Polymathic Aestheticism—live in beauty with respect to all aspects of life.




Jeremy Dahnke