Last week I was asked to define beauty as it pertains to English Renaissance love poetry, and as I was working I came to an epiphany. Earlier in the course we had been asked to examine artificiality as it relates to romance, and I just found the whole exercise, the paper itself, an act in futility. The intersection between beauty and artificiality is so complex, but obvious, that I found the prompt hard to answer.
It wasn't until the final paper on beauty, especially as I examined Robert Herrick's early modern poem Delight in Disorder, that I understood why the piece on artificiality had stumped me so badly. For the past couple of years I had been immersed in an environment based on false intentions and duplicity. Busy and distracted, the guilt of my association was running in the background of my life somewhat like a virus, but its effect on my health and mental happiness was slowly becoming an unavoidable truth. As this truth unfolded this summer, I became seriously ill. I think much of my illness was a reaction to the artificiality of my previous assignation. Now I do not mean assignation in the true sense of the word, but only in its shameful qualities, the fact I should have known better.
Today I scrolled through my social media feed to see what the captains of artificiality were selling this week, and lo and behold, some good old fashioned fakery is, of course, the rule of the day. Basically disingenuous and fluff without substance, the drumbeat remains the same. But Delight in Disorder is a poem about beauty that rejects its connection to artificiality and connects to its authenticity: A carelesse shoestring, in whose tie / I see a wild civility: / Do more bewitch me, than when art / Is too precise in every part (11-14).
Beauty is sincere. True beauty, the kind that inspires awe and promotes harmony, is authentic in its behavior and motives.
These lines from John Keats poem Ode on a Grecian Urn explains it best:
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
The captains of artificiality, these so-called leaders in the midst of their leadership summits, are typical shysters and phonies. Nothing beautiful or harmonious resides within the upper strata of their institution. This "awareness" of their fakery has been a feature of my subconscious for quite some time, and this "awareness" buried under the rush of my everyday life revealed itself during my poetry analysis and interpretations.
Now that I am moving forward with my life, I am weighing options and looking at ways to communicate my misgivings about these captains of artificiality. I believe that the fakery will collapse upon itself--but maybe not in time to save the next round of busy, well-intentioned people. The inner sanctions of this feeble institution should be revealed because the intentions at the highest level are false and shrouded in secrecy and lies. And if the intentions are clearly false, then what is the actual motive? The lack of genuine kindness is the ugliness of artificiality, and this is why it was so elusive for me. Removing those layers of doubt and facing the truth, understanding that I defended and contributed to these captains of artificiality has been a humbling experience, not one I dare repeat. My new understanding of ugliness is overshadowing my usual carefree summer break with an ugly rain cloud of despondency. But I think it's important that I made this connection. Now I must not be silent...no one should ever be silent.