There are two primary camps in the language and culture wars. In the first camp, the soldiers are led to believe language creates reality and therefore truth. In the second camp, the troops believe that language, to be viable, must correspond to reality.
I’ve been hesitating to post new blogs each week due to the fact that I didn’t have a clear focus on which way the blogs needed to go. The needed focus came to me last night like a mighty thunderclap out of a clear blue summer day. The revelation caused me to change the name of the blog to Creative Realism. What follows, is a brief explanation of the concept.
To be clear, I belong to Camp #2 of the language and culture wars. Language, in order to transmit truth and therefore meaning, must correspond to reality. When language is used in an attempt to conquer reality to change Truth, it is an act of hubris that is doomed to fail. Humans can shape reality by means of language and other tools, but they cannot change Truth to suit their needs or to build a heaven on earth.
Again, humans do not create reality, they navigate it. We may be able to build a better boat to navigate the uncharted seas of real life, but we cannot create the sea for the boat to set sail on. Reality was present long before you or I checked into the game. It was there before the first human words were grunted. It was there before humans existed. To think otherwise places you in Camp #1. That camp marches, inevitably, to nihilism.
Why? Because when language is uprooted from reality in an attempt to create a new reality it self-infects with the cancer of relativism. This is the land where, as Nietzsche infamously stated in his book Beyond Good and Evil, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” Those words haunted the twentieth century and continue to prowl about our current century seeking the ruin of souls.
Taken to its logical conclusion, Nietzsche’s perspectivism—where truth is impossible and there can only be perspective and interpretation driven by a person’s interests or “will-to-power”—leads to an abyss that sucks meaning out of language like light into a black hole. If the only truth is the will-to-power, then the strongest will creates truth and reality until a stronger will happens along. Ultimately, then, there is no truth, only power. This is the catcall of totalitarianism.
It is also the enemy of art. When writers and other artists attempt to impose their version of “truth” onto reality through self-expression, it politicizes and demeans the artist and his or her work. Art becomes a vehicle to power, not a vessel to explore the mysterious beauty of being.
For St. Thomas Aquinas art is “reason in the making,” and the artist must employ reason in pursuit of beauty. And beauty should be the aim of all artists since, in agreement with philosopher Jacques Maritain, the final transcendent end of being is beauty.
Aquinas was not only a realist but a metaphysician par excellence. Nietzsche claimed that he was the herald of the end of metaphysics. One yearned for the transcendence that leads to God, the other, worldly power. It’s not difficult to figure out who the saint was.
Ultimately, Nietzsche’s claim is self-refuting. The will-to-power is a rather ugly metaphysical proposition where beauty can mean anything to anybody and the artist with the most media coverage replaces the one whose work has a strong chance of standing the test of time because it resonates with universal human experience. In other words, Nietzsche’s camp rejects universal human nature for each human creating themselves. This is hubris.
This is where creative realism comes into play. The creative realist employs language as a vessel to explore truth and beauty in an effort to glean the transcendent. We live on a tiny planet at the edge of a backwater galaxy among billions of galaxies. The universe is vast beyond our comprehension. That’s the reality of the situation.
The universe, a natural phenomenon, is also creative, just as the natural world we live in is. That’s creative realism in action. Instead of using language in an attempt to conquer truth and reality, creative realists employ it to celebrate the mystery of being. In the immortal words of the poet, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” and beauty necessarily transcends the individual’s will-to-power.
(A version of this blog first appeared at jackgistediting.com)