Art and the Numinous

Technically/literally, art is the selection of representative instances of paradigms and the arrangement of those paradigms along the syntagmatic contiguity whereby a sort of viable antiworld consisting of abstract objects projected onto an autonomous time is created (and if you’ve studied linguistics, you may recognize this as an extension of Jakobson’s definition of poetry), but that’s really only meaningful to human experience in the following sense:

Art is fundamentally a form of proto-mysticism, an attempt to bring back etherealities from the ineffable in order to make greater coherence of the local context (an infinitesimal dot in the Local Bubble on the fringe of Laniakea), and to do so without reference to ossified arbitraries, creating contrails and confluences of meaning and forming interfilaments of mint vapors, petrichor rivulets, and ozone plumes whose parameters and functional dependencies become increasingly complex and promise momentous structure, none of which are in and of and only themselves the answer to any essential mystery.

But I don’t intend to glorify mysticism. On the contrary, it is my belief that mysticism with the added mystification is nothing but snake oil, and that attempts to systematize mystical experiences into spiritual frameworks (not necessarily religious ones) typically do more harm than good, distilling banalities and platitudes and Forer effect generalities that are either wrong or entirely meaningless. Humans, in their longing for certainty, have envisioned contact with the numinous as consisting of Tesla coils, synesthetic colors performing aerial jumping jacks, swirling enlightenment iridescences, and a frothy voice proclaiming “This is IT! Here is the ULTIMATE THING!”, effectively arranging spiritual answers into a neat little eschatological and teleological package with a bow tie and a Microsoft warranty. (A thing I’ve found amusing of late- imagine a Complete Cosmic Vision™ as an Adobe product from the 90s, where you need to click through a series of license agreements before you can get the interactive deities and cinematically rendered apocalypse to run on your mind.)

What I wish to ascribe to art is something more subtle, something akin to the “duende” of Spanish art combined with the “ṭarab” of Arabic music. These two terms are actually quite similar, but they differ in their inflection in that the former refers to a state of ecstasy induced in the listener, while the latter attributes the sense of passion and soulfulness to the art itself.

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