Why do we seem to love irony and contradiction in art but not so much in life? Is it because art allows us to be exactly what we are, complex as we are individually, and life does not? So which is truer, art or life? For all art’s illusions and deceptions, it’s easy to see which is truer, which is more to be depended upon, especially when death is in the picture, perhaps even being closely scrutinized—or breathing down our necks.
There’s art in honesty just as there is honesty in the best art—as well as much mischief like deviance and all delicious manner of unrespectability, which is individuality. Art not just allows but asks the artist, the writer to be real, however absurd or surreal he may be. Art becomes his reality, more real than life. The conventional wisdom is reversed: life pretends, art makes real—and reality.
Plato was so wrong to denigrate art. Art—culture—is not just our salvation, it’s our entrance to the garden of imagination, which is what makes us eternal. A garden encompassing all varieties of tree and flower, from the tree of knowledge to the lovely blossom that says nothing, whose form and color—or whose fragrance—is its eloquence. And there are times when eloquence is all. Or enchantment, ecstasy, magic, call it what you will.
It is the irrationalities of our art, our writing, our thinking that create a paradise on Earth and beyond for those of us who accept any rendering of paradise at all. So long as we’re human, we appreciate it as a place of complexity encompassing such gadflies to social status quo as irony and contradiction. A body of work thus created is reality to those who seek beauty as if beauty were all—or emotion, or any sensation that sums up one’s soul, both momentary and eternal. And, if one is a thinker, any thought whose meaning begins with its having been thought. In short, any brain, any heart, any man or woman who makes a poem out of existence; it will be a song, a vision, an image that vies with all images that refute it . . . as if its meaning lay in its obstreperousness. As if its contrapuntal embracing of opposites, contraries were—and it is—necessary to make it the best, the truest, or at least the most magical it can be. That will be our art’s—and life’s, redeemed by art—real beauty, both its logic and madness, its reddest blush on the adventurous, the daring cheek.