Of Beauty and of Death

Forgive me with kindness for speaking of something as morose such as of beauty and death in the same breath, but both are breathing, iconic, mysterious, and often misunderstood.  Beauty and death are seldom the points of reflection in daily life, given the emotional and spiritual weight they pay tribute to.  The world we know filled with madness, sorrow, conflicts, chaos, diversions, and changes in life circumstances. The spirit of beauty and death exists like light and shadows on the wall or a chiaroscuro existence, rarely spoken of.

O’ fortune’s spinning wheels of time, like a full moon waning in the cadence of time.
I wonder of thine joyful life, like wine, and the passing of time.
Taste the bread of O’ beauty, less dread of death, put thou to the test of time.

Our perceptions of beauty, and death, define our view of the present and past tenses, we are often perplexed as to which one appropriates the other, beauty or death?  Both beauty and death are like looking through a multi-colored kaleidoscope where the seer experiences the opposing mixtures and emotional patterns of nostalgia, joy, melancholy, fear, or ethereal feelings, but all are optically misleading.  Lending to the misconception that in the end, death appropriates all, including beauty.  Nothing could be further from the contrarian truth.

Of beauty and death, we recognize as absolute truths, marked by human language denoting words like, is or to be, like burning embers in the human imagination, creating constructs of what is beautiful or what it is to be or not to be.  Know Truth, beauty is far from the conventional or popular perceptions where beauty is bemused with ideas of what is pretty, attractive, eye-catching, or even artful.

For beauty is dangerous, beauty is dangerous to the corrupt and immoral world in that it attempts to cleanse and remove human transgressions from the world.  For our fruit is rotten, our fruit is rotten with corruption, diminutive thoughts, and fear of not.  What are beautiful results from nature and moral goodness that remove or transform human transgressions into mercy, grace, humility, and kindness into a heightened human experience? Beauty transcends decadence, narcissism, arrogance, conceit, tyranny, and at its paramount, beauty becomes a collective organic moral human experience.  Conversely, decadence, narcissism, arrogance, superiority, and authoritarianism are aberrant enemies of beauty, often leading to objectification rather than to a more remarkable and honorable end.

Now and then, works of art become objects of beauty. Such adoration is another form of objectification unless an artist’s masterworks elevate or ennoble the theater of the human condition beyond the artist’s generation. Otherwise, such works become superfluous objects of anthropological nature, commoditized by the gallery-museum complex. Beauty must be dangerously original to change the human experience; there is no substitute or deviation from originality.  Beauty requires risks with a moral compass, even if it leads to being ignored or ostracized, until death, which is inevitable given life’s challenges.

Of beauty and death, many fear the latter. Humankind throughout the ages has meditated on the mystery and subject of death with masterworks from antiquity to now, encompassing philosophy, theater, theology, painting, sculpture, literature, and newer mediums, which ultimately form our perceptions of beauty, and death.  When it comes to cultural, religious belief systems specifically precepts about human death under a religious context, those of the non-secular beliefs are comforted by their faith, while those of the secular beliefs find comfort with the minimalism of death, merely binary and nothing more.  Ultimately, death remains a mystery as the faith or belief we hold, regardless, if we are atheists, agnostics, or faithful believers, as all three ships have not yet left their safe harbor.

Of death, we often contrast with the ember of life and the physicality of the human body. The pure physicality of our bodies is made of complex organic chemicals solidified in a homologous biological system bonded together by atoms, with their electrons, neutrons, protons engendered from the electromagnetic energy spectrum. Humans would be non-existent without the electromagnetic spectrum. Somewhere between gamma rays and radio waves frequencies are the building blocks of the right level of emitting energy or radiation that allows chemical elements to compound, solidify, and form organic life.  Not to mention the electromagnetic spectrum provides visible light in qualities that sustain life on earth.

Such is the razor edge that separates the difference between life and death, which is a thin and fragile line, like an invisible energy film between two spheres.  When the body dies and decomposes, the atoms from the body still stay around and sometimes break down into a radioactive decay slowly over time, it is estimated a proton half-life is roughly around 1.29×1034 years.  Simply put, the deceased body like any mass is made up of atoms, and the elements of the atom such as electrons, neutrons, and protons, linger on in various states but remain on an atomic level over eternity.  When the body incinerates, the body turns into a form of Carbon (Symbol C) Atomic number 6.  Carbon is the fifteenth abundant element in the earth’s crust and the fourth abundant element by mass in the universe; in essence, the atom’s electrons, neutrons, and protons that make up the physicality of the human body after death remain in the atomic universe from which they came, ambient emitting atomic particles. Something Epicurus dreamt of long ago.

From the winds of the distant past of antiquity, the whispers of Homeric souls blow across the windswept earth. Homeric poems contained one of the earliest usages of the word soul “psuche” in Hellenistic literature.  In the Homeric world, the soul always belongs to a human being and is one of the same.  The Homeric notion of the soul is something humans risk in life or battle; it is something only a human can have during life or lose after death, where the soul goes to the underworld; transmuted into shade or image of the deceased.

Achilles is always reflecting on risking the loss of his soul in the Iliad (9.322). By the fifth century, about the time of Socrates’ death, and towards the end of the sixth century, the semantics and meaning of soul changed, thought of, and spoken of as the distinctive mark of livings things, capable of emotional states, faculty of reason, and bearer of virtues such as courage, beauty, and justice. The writings of Plato and Aristotle to some extent expanded the questions of the soul, and gradually over time, the Homeric idea of the soul lost hold with Hellenistic culture, but this allowed new ideas about the soul to transmute and form.

What came after was the word, “empsuchos” or “ensouled” which became the standard Hellenistic meaning for “alive” and that not just humans have a soul, but all living things in the world have a soul.  The belief formed that the soul delineates which is alive from which is not, but moreover, what also defines the soul are virtues and actions of the living human being.

Our contemporaneous view of the soul, we are indebted to history with an obligatory note in hand to the writings of Homer, Thales, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Epicurus, who explored nature what it is to be a human soul.  Such rich and fertile soil became the bed for the seeds of Western Abrahamic religious thought, our code, and moral inheritance.

Of beauty and death, do not fear. If you must have trepidation of the latter, observe the immoral conditions of your soul and the world, remove the transgressions such as decadence, narcissism, arrogance, conceit, ignorance, injustice, intolerance, the tyranny of men, and replace with the morality of beauty. Fear, not death, fear beauty. Fear the absence of beauty from your soul and the world.  In the end, not death, but beauty appropriates all.

Of Beauty and Death

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi – Gloria

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons.

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi – Concerto for Two Trumpets in C Major

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – Vespers

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – L’Orfeo

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi – Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda

Georg Friedrich Händel – Coronation Anthems

Georg Friedrich Händel – Water Music

Georg Friedrich Händel – Messiah

Johann Sebastian Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 2

Johann Sebastian Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach – Orchestral Suite No.2 In B Minor

Franz Josef Haydn – Symphony No.59 in A Major “Fire”

Franz Josef Haydn – Trumpet Concerto

Franz Josef Haydn – Symphony No. 45 in F Minor “Farewell”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – The Requiem in D Minor, K. 626

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto No.20 D Minor K.466

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”

Ludwig Van Beethoven – Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55

Ludwig Van Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125

Ludwig Van Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 3 Op 57

Franz Peter Schubert – Mass No. 6 in E-Flat Major D. 950 – III. Credo: Et in carnatus est

Franz Peter Schubert – Standchen

Franz Peter Schubert – Impromptus, Op. 90, D 899 – No. 4 in A Flat and Impromptu In G Flat

Johannes Brahms – Symphony 1 in C minor Op. 68

Johannes Brahms – Clarinet Quintet in B Minor Op. 115

Johannes Brahms – Hungarian Dances 1-21

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi – Requiem

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi – Rigoletto

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi – La Traviata

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini – La bohème

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini – Tosca

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini – Madame Butterfly

Gabriel Urbain Fauré – Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48

Gabriel Urbain Fauré – Pavane in F-sharp Minor, Op. 50

Gabriel Urbain Fauré – Sicilienne, for cello & piano, Op. 78

Joseph Maurice Ravel – Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte

Joseph Maurice Ravel – Rapsodie Espagnole M.54 1-5

Joseph Maurice Ravel – Bolero

Frédéric François Chopin – Piano Sonata No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 35

Frédéric François Chopin – Nocturne Op.9 no.1

Frédéric François Chopin – Prelude in E Minor Op.28 No.4

Samuel Osborne Barber II – Adagio for Strings, String Quartet, Op. 11, and Agnus Dei

Samuel Osborne Barber II – Knoxville, Summer 1915

Samuel Osborne Barber II – Symphony No. 1

Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez – Concierto de Aranjuez

Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez – Fantasia para un gentilhombre

Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez – Concierto Para Una Fiesta

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual – Asturias

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual – Evocación

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual – Pavana-Capricho Op. 1

Manual de Falla – Nights in Spanish Gardens

Manual de Falla – El Amor Brujo

Manual de Falla – Three-Cornered Hat

Edvard Hagerup Grieg – Peer Gynt Suites

Edvard Hagerup Grieg – Solveig’s Song

Edvard Hagerup Grieg – Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op 16

Antonín Leopold Dvořák – Requiem

Antonín Leopold Dvořák – Symphony No. 9 “New World”

Antonín Leopold Dvořák – Song to the Moon

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev – The Love of Three Oranges

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev – Romero and Juliet

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev – War and Peace, Op. 91, Symphonic Suite

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov – “The Rose and the Nightingale” for Flute & Piano

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov – Sheherazade Op. 35

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov – Capriccio Espagnol, Op.34 – 1

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 43

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances op.45

Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin – Steppes of Central Asia

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin – Prince Igor

Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin – Symphony No. 2 in B Minor (revised N. Rimsky-Korsako)

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky – Khovanschina

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor Op. 23

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 6 in B Minor “Pathetique”

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 35 – Andante

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns – Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns – Carnival of the Animals

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns – Samson and Delilah, Op. 47

Georges Bizet – Carmen

Georges Bizet – L’Arlesienne Suite

Georges Bizet – Nocturne in D major

Jacques Offenbach – The Tales of Hoffmann

Jacques Offenbach – La Vie Parisienne

Jacques Offenbach – Orphee – Orphée Aux Enfers

Achille-Claude Debussy – La Mer

Achille-Claude Debussy – Clair de lune

Achille-Claude Debussy – Rêverie

Franz Liszt – Transcendental Étude No. 4

Franz Liszt – Liebestraum No. 3

Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody no. 1-6

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius –  Finlandia, Op.26

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius –  Valse Triste, Op.44

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius – Karelia Suite Op. 11

Bedřich Smetana – Moldau

Bedřich Smetana – String Quartet N.1 in E Minor

Bedřich Smetana -Ma Vlast

Gustav Theodore Holst – The Planets

Gustav Theodore Holst – St. Pual Suite for Strings, Op 29

Gustav Theodore Holst – The Perfect Fool, Op.39

Gustav Mahler – Symphonies No.1 -10

Gustav Mahler – Rückert-Lieder

Gustav Mahler – Kindertotenlieder

Josef Anton Bruckner – Symphony No. 7 in E Major

Josef Anton Bruckner – Symphony No.5 in B Flat Major

Josef Anton Bruckner- Symphony No. 9 in D Minor

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet – Enigma Variations, Op 36

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet – Serenade For Strings In E Minor, Op 20

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet – Salut d’Amour Op.12

Ralph Vaughn Williams – The Lark Ascending

Ralph Vaughn Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Ralph Vaughn Williams – Five Variants of ‘Dives and Lazarus’

Gioachino Antonio Rossini – Barber of Seville

Gioachino Antonio Rossini – La Donna del Lago

Gioachino Antonio Rossini – String Sonata in G Major

Louis-Hector Berlioz – Roman Carnival Overture, Op.9

Louis-Hector Berlioz – The Damnation of Faust

Louis-Hector Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique

Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich – Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 43

Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47

Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich – Jazz Suite No.2

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky – Rite of Spring

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky – The Firebird

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky – Orpheus

Aaron Copland – Quiet City

Aaron Copland – Symphony No.3

Aaron Copland – Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp, & Piano

Leonard Bernstein – Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah”

Leonard Bernstein – Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety”

Leonard Bernstein – Candide

Philip Morris Glass – Koyaanisqatsi

Philip Morris Glass – Metamorphosis

Philip Morris Glass – The Hours

Arvo Pärt – Da Pacem

Arvo Pärt – Tabula Rasa

Arvo Pärt – Silentium

“The past is never dead; it’s not even past”William Faulkner

Sources:  National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Futurism.com, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, IEP.Com-University of Tennessee, Wikipedia  

All Rights Reserved, Of Beauty, and Death  © Richard Anthony Peña 2017

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