Monday, July 30, 2007

from the Notebooks: the Authentic Life

To live an authentic life is to walk the talk. Among 20th century individuals, I so much admire Simone Weil because she spent--literally spent--her short life in the attempt to do just that. I have long thought that there are only three human types whose lives are potentially fully authentic; men or women who are what they do: the saint; the outlaw; the artist.
The saint, being Goodness personified, transcends the rules that the rest of us fail so miserably to live by; he has no need of them. The outlaw steals his freedom from the rule-bound herd of humanity; he is all eros and libido; he does that which he wants to do. The outlaw, therefore, is to evil what the saint is goodness. The artist combines elements of each of these types. His erotic pursuit of Truth and Beauty is analogous to the saint's loving quest of God. But his refusal to take a number; his refusal to patiently wait on line; his refusal to don the monkey suit, is definitive. In the violent power of his all-consuming creative urge, the artist claims a freedom that is analogous to the outlaw's.
Of these three types, which fascinates us the most? Billy the Kid? Vincent Van Gogh? Mother Teresa? With which type do we have the most in common?

7 comments:

EdMcGon said...

If I recall correctly, there is a Japanese word "shibumi", which refers to perfection of the kind which seems natural (although it can be acquired through effort). Think Michael Jordan playing basketball.

It is not so much the saint, outlaw, or artist which intrigues me, but rather which one of them displays "shibumi" in their pursuit. Of the ones you named, Mother Teresa stands out in this regard. Her acts of charity came so naturally to her because she had been doing them so long. It became part of her nature.

Ironically, no outlaws come to mind as achieving any kind of perfection. Most outlaws tend to be punks with a chip on their shoulders. Robin Hood comes close, but he strikes me as more myth than man.

Artists are the ones who come closest to "shibumi". By it's nature, isn't art itself perfection?

Rodak said...

Ed--
Agreed. In each case, I am talking about the quintessential embodiment of the type. For me, "shibumi" translates as "walk the talk."

"Ironically, no outlaws come to mind as achieving any kind of perfection."

I was going to use Robin Hood, but decided on Billy the Kid--whose legend has made him into a kind of American Robin Hood--as is the case with several other American outlaws, such as Pretty Boy Floyd.
I agree that the "perfect outlaw" can exist only in legend.
But, then, there can be no such thing as a perfect human being, other than the One. Even the greatest of saints is far from perfect.
Beauty is Truth because it is transcendant; it is without utility; it points our attention towards eternity.

Rodak said...

Compare this article to Ed's conception in the comment above:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibui

EdMcGon said...

Perfection is like the speed of light...through the expenditure of a tremendous amount of energy, you can get close to it.

Rodak said...

Ed--
Do you know why the wikipedia link I posted above is not "live" and how I can make it "live"?

EdMcGon said...

Check your settings in Blogger. Even then, I'm still not sure.

Rodak said...

Yeah, that's the problem. I don't know what setting might need to be changed. I've searched the help pages, and it remains a mystery.