01 June 2007

Reason

So when I am not screwing tires together, lately I've been:

reading Al Gore's Assault on Reason
chipping away at Slouching Towards Bethlehem
and chatting with Mark diSuvero a little bit about art and structures--he's making a big structure at the park.

And I have a few observations.

Mark diSuvero and Joan Didion are very different kinds of structuralists. Mark is all about defying gravity by starting from a flat place and controlling geometry--drawing upward in space. Didion is more of a moldmaker or an enameler, collecting observations that do not seem to have any structural integrity on their own, until they are laid in or over an idea, describing it, with little bits of Didion's conclusion stippled in like hardware cloth, lending lots of rigidity or truth.

They are both creating structures using external ideas about truth. Flat surfaces and geometry are external. The tackiness of Vegas or the meaning of some woman's dress and its tattered hem are external. Cultures create these things--they are not intrinsic.

The art comes out of a belief in these structures. Mark has a passion--a zeal--for the way he works and for structural integrity that is almost ecstatic. It is a beautiful thing about him. And Didion believes enough in the power of this storyfinding and this process of turning stories into ideas that she applied it to the most terrible set of stories--the sudden loss of her immediate family.

This kind of work is what I think "reason" means. diSuvero and Didion are reasoning people. And this is making me realize that there has to be a certain amount of belief operating in order to reason.

In a world that is increasingly relatavist, increasingly belief-less, this orientation is less and less possible. But does that mean that structure or reason is impossible?

I am only at page 40, but so far Al Gore is structuring his argument about reason (and the structure of the Senate) on a romantic, backward-looking vision of print media being good, and television being bad. Ugh!

He has a television company, so I am hoping that he is just warming up.

I do think that there are other ways to create truth and structure, but they are not as flashy or grand as the belief-way. And I think that Gore might be well-positioned to figure out this paradigm shift, because he's a super-practical guy, and because he digested global warming.

We'll see.

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