Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Culture and Cruelty

"In the Spaniard's heart is a deep conviction that nothing can be proven except that it be made to bleed. Virgins, bulls, men. Ultimately God himself.”

The DueƱa, in All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

"Almost everything we call ‘higher culture’ is based on the spiritualisation and intensification of cruelty – this is my proposition; the ‘wild beast’ has not been laid to rest at all, it lives, it flourishes, it has become – defined. That what constitutes the painful voluptuousness of tragedy is cruelty"

Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

I've often heard this quote and just as often wondered if it was true. Nietzche uses the qualifiers 'almost" and 'higher', so the casual faultfinder can't assert with any credibility that the sport of curling is cruelty free as proof of refutation.
When speaking of tragic theater there can hardly be shock, awe and ultimately catharsis without blood being spilt. Having attended ballet I would suggest that the entire concept is cruel both to the practitioners and the audience. And in painting one of my previous posts about Peter Paul Rubens demonstrates the sadism inherent in his art.
So perhaps Nietzche was onto something. But what was he trying to do to begin with? I am far from a Nietzche fan and even further from an authority on him. But from what I can tell he was interested in separating the nonsense from the useful. A younger man might call it the search for truth, but for our purposes here we will be content with the merely workable.
The bottom line is we appreciate suffering. Think of a medieval cathedral- high art no doubt, but what fascinates us is all the hard work and sacrifice that went into it. Of course it's pretty but if one were told it took three weeks to build by part time laborers who ate well and slept on feather beds at break time it would lose some of it's appeal.
In 2004 the Red Sox won the world series. Emblematic of that victory is the bloody sock of Curt Schilling who perhaps ended his career with that dramatic performance. Blood, sacrifice, pain, struggle, ultimate victory - it was all there. Had Superman pitched 4 perfect games with the infielders and outfielders sitting on their gloves in the grass watching it, who would have cared?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the experience of pushing a baby (or three) from your loins might not be wasted on you. kisses.