Characteristics central to the English Romantic era were beauty and consciousness. To know a thing is to become a thing whereas that idea magnifies and precludes one’s own value of presence. This is not unlike the great fall at the Garden, where the true crime of Adam and Eve was the tailoring of possessiveness. To attain for oneself and to attain in order to be grafted into the large communal spirit are two different things. The Romantics centralized beauty and our relationship with it. This Enlightenment fragment is still with us, dominating us in a consumer-based post-totalitarian foraging of selfhood. The original idea of fascism remarked on the combined relationship between socio-political dominance tied with corporate structure. This commentary on corporatism was faded by capitalist interests, but it makes sense how commentators on Václav Havel’s use of his term, post-totalitarianism, linked that with modern consumerism.
Possession is not a consequence of romantic empathy. Nor, the post-totalitarian promotion of beauty. Beauty is a social construct. To be fair, there was not a single Romantic era interpretation of beauty that we can cast blame on as being integrated into our inherited enlightenment. Beauty was also associated with the mystical and ancient concept of awe, which, unmistakably, was an idea that transcended God-reference awe to humanity-referenced and human-idea referenced awe. But this awe, too, is not a consequence of romantic empathy. Contemporary awe floats between consumer driven darkness in idolatry commingled with misplaced emotivism and the dystopian awe that short circuits silently among a suffering people. The latter is the focal point of romantic empathy and the expression of shared belonging is a consequence of endeavoring upon this approach.
However, there is a relationship between possessiveness and consumer-centric post-totalitarian awe. Romantic empathy shields us from these present and dominant forms of social life. To be a thing is to know a thing and romantic empathy will inscribe upon us a fostered and remarkable presence of mind that dislocates the influencing spirit of those celebrating dystopian mimes of circumventing distortions of love and life.
Contemporary awe floats between consumer driven darkness in idolatry commingled with misplaced emotivism and the dystopian awe that short circuits silently among a suffering people.
Where to find true beauty? Historically these standards of art, the body, idealism, pragramitist invention, and technology have shifted – often in a way that abases a previous form. The social construct of beauty and the history of the concept shows us that it is not to be trusted in any manner or form. This is a positive awe, because it releases the self from denial of the self as well as denial from shared inclinations towards communal, integrated harmonious society. There still is a sacred hope for such a community and there is no intellectual venture demanding superiority that should be maintained that denies the truth of togetherness, of a oneness that is only true in selfhood as it is in its romantic empathy with another.
When romantic empathy becomes dystopian that is the call of the alert subconscious matting out that things are not what they seem much like a dream that reflects on one’s anxieties and manifest those traits through semi-normal encounters in unusual circumstances. After all, that is what this is. This life of seeking to attain romantic empathy is an awareness of the sacrifices of placating those who have no interest in the continuation or betterment of our collective spheres. The primacy of the consequences of romantic empathy is not a reframing of one’s interpretation of life, but a retooling of the illusions of the selfhood absorbed in this current projection of awe. This consequence is freedom. It is liberation from the motives of others and our own primitive expectations of less.
Painting: SALMAN TOOR’S THE BAR ON EAST 13TH, 2019.