Sunday, May 18, 2008

Marriage with Abstraction

Seldom have any two philosophers agreed on who Reason is, but they have concurred, at least since Athena gave the olive tree to Athens, that She is a woman, and to be pursued with the devotion due her gender. Men feel safest in the company of female Abstractions. Here they believe their attentions most likely to be rewarded.

Alongside Her in this female fellowship stand Justice, Truth and Beauty. The first of these is the most approachable, and the least likely to harbor any prejudice against appearances (blind girls are charming this way) The second is more elusive, and glimpses of Her are the matter of fleeting occasion. Her gender was even in question until less than two centuries ago, when Nietzsche, with redoubtable Germanic boldness began his "Beyond Good and Evil" with the words "Supposing Truth to be a Woman. . ." So much we now know. As for the last of these, any man who has doubts as to her sex ought to check to see if his glands are functioning properly.

These and others compose a loose panthion. The union cannot be a comfortable one, because the homage rendered to its single members has always been disproportionate. Men, insofar as they are matrimonial beings, will not take up house with Truth, because as I have said, she is evasive. Furthermore, she is unresponsive to compliments, which, if meant honestly, only present her with more of what she is.

Justice is a woman with her own career, and incapable of giving herself to one man. Were she to do so, tyranny, treasons, plots and innumerable malfeseances would ensue, and she would be forced to prostitute herself the world round to rectify the catastrophe.

Reason is the homeliest of these, and the least inclined to satisfy the needs of the whole man. She makes her home in the highest part of us, sadly the part where appetite grows least. In one of his more quoted moments, Euripides stated that "Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." They sunder them from Reason. The poet might have added to this that the mass of voracious and energetic men are normally happy with the divorce, and eager to enjoy the freedom of a lunatic bachelorhood.

The above provisions make clear why Paris made the choice he did in giving away the golden apple. Every man has some idea of Beauty which he has dressed in a particular face and body.
She is the one abstraction who has at some time distracted each of us, much to the disapproval of Her companions, and more pertinantly, to real and breathing women, carnate and critical. We make no apologies, and would bid them go and do likewise, were it possible. But it is not, for every Abstraction worth praise or poetry wears a female face.

-Thomas Banks-