I like beauty; if I have to fill my life with things, I should appreciate the aesthetics of those things. And I don’t like having to defend myself for this. I have been accused of being a misogynist and a chauvinist for this. But that is a misunderstanding (or oversensitivity) about what beauty is. Beauty is not just physical; beauty can be about elegance, kindness, emotion… aesthetics are about an interaction. (And yes, this is about to be another post about how people interact with each other.) If I don’t know a person I’m talking to particularly well (or, in the case of this blog, I don’t even know who I am talking to) I aim to be approximately dull and balanced, with a hint of chattiness and (if I’m feeling brave) a little comedy. The aim is safe blandness with a cute smile (to mirror the physical beauty element that at least one commenter will refuse to let go of). Some people simply aren’t beautiful.
I do surround myself with people I consider beautiful. Before you consider that to be a chauvinistic comment, consider the mirror position: do you choose to surround yourself with ugly people? Wait! Remember this is not a merely physical consideration. I am referring to how they communicate, how they think, how they make me feel. I also choose to have beautiful things. Conversations with my brother are beautiful, even though we often disagree. My brother and I agree basic rules of conversation: when something appears inelegant we make sure we aren’t talking past each other by double checking our definitions and, if necessary splitting our terms.¹ Remember: beauty is a quality of how something make you feel (according to me, and thus in this post) and so it is important for one’s home and friends and social events to be beautiful. I am not just talking about my Chromebook or Tablet, but also the interactions I have.
Elegance is an important part beauty. I suspect my posts aren’t elegant because they are written defensively; I can imagine the nonsense rebuttals I am going to get and address them even though they are not relevant. That annoys me about blogging, especially as it was intended as a hobby; to be expressive and have good discussions about interesting things. When blogging, I can begin to feel self conscious as a post squirrels out trying to defend against the inelegant responses I can foresee coming. (Like stupidity, inelegance is hard to predict.) But no matter how I feel about my inelegance, there are some commenters I have that clearly have no qualms about their elegance.
I understand that my desire to be surrounded by beauty is a subjective preference and, given that WordPress is free, it is a loose definition of “my” to call this “my space” (which is why I don’t censor comments). Others clearly decide to surround themselves with very different interactions; they lack elegance and beauty. I’m not passing judgement, they just choose a different environment. The environment they choose, or create, is an aggressive, confrontational and decidedly inelegant one. A beautiful conversation includes points or questions with a direct rebuttal, agreement or answer and stay on topic. An inelegant conversation has a person ignoring questions and taking a conversation off in redundant directions and compounds definitions (which is the basis of the equivocation fallacy; grouping very different definitions under the same name). In a conversation, a dialogue, a cooperative activity, I find this impolite, aggressive, obtuse and accusing. More importantly, I don’t consider it a conversation. I consider it being tricked into giving another person the opportunity to ignorantly rant.
Let’s be clear,² I’m not arguing for the censorship of content of expression. I am simply saying that beauty is in interactions that flow, address the purpose and rectify, not wallow in, confusion (sustained confusion is ugly). If you have a relevant disagreement or expansion or general related comment then I welcome it.
I don’t believe in God (I don’t know if you’d figured that out). That clears the view of what conversations are worth having. I’d be willing to wager that god-talk is actually a confused attempt at having these exact conversations; of beauty and truth. I think God is a sustained confusion, believing that truth is most reliably reached by authority and that beauty can be dictated to you. (Let’s be clear: my reason for not believing in a god is not a desire for libertarianism, but I am merely pointing out that not talking about a god clarifies these conversations).
What I am saying is that I think it is important to be beautiful. That is more important than whether you are religious or agree with me. To care about truth, consistency, elegant criticism and how you make others feel is… beautiful. That’s the real conversation.
1 – splitting a definition may be something only my brother and I understand. It means if you are both using the same word to describe slightly different things we assign terms. For example, in our discussion about whether copyright laws, in their current form, stifle creativity and originality. My brother was trying to argue that originality doesn’t exist. After properly investigating what he means, he was using the following definition of originality: an idea with absolute novelty with no causal link to its past. Ex nihilo novelty, ideas independent of cause. So we introduced the term “naive originality” to refer to that, and defined “originality” as a novel arrangement of preexisting ideas. That was useful and elegant.
2 – when I say “let’s be clear” it is likely the following sentences are attempting to address a foreseeable misunderstanding that I think you could have if you were desperate to argue with me, but I suspect you’re being insincere.
NB I know this seems an overblown response to feeling that a commenter is obtuse and impolite. But I do think that the bigger issue is worthy of discussion. Thank you to the more obtuse commenters I receive, you’ve inspired this.