Cultures of Shame, unaware and unintentional about so much of their daily doings as they are, cannot in any way approach the beauty of artistic expression that is time and again demonstrated by cultures of Guilt, if “art” the Shameful can create at all.
That Greece, in the days of her philistine Shame, produced the Iliad of Homer, is in no way a refutation of this rule. Neither do the cave scratchings of Lascaux nor the manifold scribbles of aurochs and unicorns upon dusty earthen vaults the world over supply a suitable contradiction either, for such expressions, like the Great Pyramid and her Sphinx and the desert ziggurats and Mesoamerican totems were, are and can only be birthed out of either the irreflective human necessity for self-expression or the dutiful, externalized obedience (whether to gods or kings), not an ardent desire for truth and its atonement which alone is the realm and artistry of the Guilty.
The more Guilty a people and the more internalized their archaic feelings of shame and inwardly conscious they will inevitably be of their own innumerable sins and shortcomings, the more such ones will seek to expiate the consequences of those sins (whether in this life or the one that comes after) so that their conscience might find a regenerative, lasting Catharsis: the bloodiest, most costly, and ruthlessly honest of those articulations, the more cathartic and therefore “beautiful” and by it, universally “truthful” its artistic products will be.
Art is the practice of catharsis, which only the guilty, burdened, and heavy-laden will be compelled to produce.
Such is why it might be said that there are no consistently happy artists, that is unless the artist is engaged with and immersed in his art.
Truth, therefore, while it cannot be fully apprehended or “regained” in its totality by the work of any one man nor even the fastidious synthesis by centuries of men, can only be depicted through art, by the efforts of the mind in temporary subordination to the heart which always yearns for justification, validation, affirmation and a fitting atonement for the sins of its subjective existence which it committed (and still commits) the moment it emerged from the objective anonymity of the infinite past when it sacrificed the collective unity and Unifier in whose abiding presence it had until that moment enjoyed; Truth which, to man, can only be an imitation, a symbolic representation of that which will never and can never be reproduced as it actually is.
Truth is, unfortunately, what man wants it to be, or what he believes he wants it to be or should, what he can’t help but feel he needs it to be to atone for the sins of his heart which alone is the ground and wellspring of his art; art derived, inevitably, from his own personal “experience” of the necessity of catharsis, which alone separates “good” art – which is “art”, as properly understood – from bad, which is merely an exercise in spectacle and pornography.
Devil walks into bar. Orders drink. Asks Philosopher sitting next to him: “And what do you do?”