In a letter to his brothers in December 1817 John Keats said, “The excellence of every Art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate from their being in close relationship with Beauty & Truth.” While conceptions of Beauty and Truth have changed a great deal, and while these categories or no longer generally understood to be universal, I can’t help but agree with Mr. Keats. Perhaps when one discovers Beauty and Truth in art, they are experiencing their own culturally or ideologically constructed version of Beauty and Truth, but there is a timelessness in this construction. If one is to refute the universality of Truth and Beauty in terms of historicisms or constructions along lines of class, gender, or race, then fair enough. But I think you can take all of those things into account in conceiving of Truth and Beauty as eternal… perhaps not fixed as Plato would have them,.. eternally in flux, maybe. But eternal nonetheless. And categories nonetheless. Notions of Truth and Beauty will always exist. Maybe my reader will prefer, allow or even entertain the notion of a fixed and absolute Beauty & Truth. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that a) I’ve done my tiresome academic caveat and b) Truth and Beauty will be considered.
My love of literature is constantly reinvigorated by moments of wonder when I am made speechless— wordless and profoundly silent— by a brief brush with Beauty and Truth. I almost want to describe this experience further, but I don’t. Because I feel wordless about it. I imagine that most people have had at least vaguely similar experiences. It’s partially why art is… kind of a thing. Because it effects us. Today I would like to give you an example of one of these moments I had yesterday.
So YEAH, opalescence.
First of all, savor that WORD. Mmmm. Taste it, hear its liquidity, and feel its rich and luminous sheen wash over you.
I was reading a fascinating and actually quite eerie Gothic novella by George Eliot entitled The Lifted Veil. But there, amidst the dark and strange was this:
“The opal was my favorite stone, because it seems to blush and turn pale as if it had a soul.”
There is was. Truth and Beauty. Played upon my imagination in its own happy (and disruptive) way.
Just thought I’d share.