When I went to college, I was living proof of Allan Bloom‘s famous assertion that: “almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative…” Then I read Dostoevsky’s great suspense novel Crime and Punishment and the relativist barrier to wisdom was blasted out of my head by the book’s insight and dramatic power. It was that novel, as much as the Gospels themselves, that set me on the road to Christ and eternal jolliness. Years later, when I had entered a period of philosophical atheism and was reading various atheist writers, I came upon the porno-philosophic work of the Marquis de Sade, from whom we get the word sadism. The combination of his unassailable moral logic and his dramatization of the psychopathic results of that logic made me realize that moral atheism could not ultimately be defended. Seeking to confirm my belief system, I destroyed it.
The point is, we should at least now and then look to cultural works to change our minds not to sit there nodding at us like so many bobble-headed dolls. Has that approach led me down some wrong roads from time to time? Sure it has. Nietzsche’s hypnotic; Freud’s convincing; Hemingway’s cool — I went some way with each of them for a time. But even error strengthens you in truth ultimately, if you keep your mind and heart open, because in the end you not only wind up knowing what you think but why you think it. As a result, with luck, you reach a point where you can be convinced, but not seduced, where you’re open-minded but not empty-headed — a consummation devoutly to be wished, as Snooki or someone once said.
Miss Dargis and her leftist ilk may be beyond help. They don’t know what they don’t know. But for the rest of us, in my humble O, art should be a playground for the soul. We don’t need to argue with it. We can lose ourselves in it and trust we’ll still be there when we get back.
Cross-Posted from Klavan on the Culture