art, the mirror to your soul

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul

(George Bernard Shaw)

Pieties, unlike cliches, carry no guarantee of truth: but there is a familiar one about the arts which does. It is that when a thoughtful and receptive sensibility engages with the arts, it is nourished by them, and learns from them, not least how to be discerning: ‘It is only the dullness of the eye that makes any two things seem alike,’ Pater said, and the idea of the uniqueness and particularity of things carries over from a painting or a moment of dance to a moral circumstance or an individual’s suffering. In that way art civilises too, because it is as Shaw says, a mirror for souls.

Perhaps the young find it hard to appreciate the arts because the arts are themselves always youthful. ‘ Art is never didactic, does not take kindly to facts, is helpless to grapple with theories, and is killed outright be a sermon,’ said Agnes Repplier, and she could have put ‘youth’ for ‘art’ at the sentence’s head. Many mistakenly think that art must be approached in one’s mental Sunday best; that it lacks laughs; that it changes nothing. The opposite is true, and those who discover this fact are infinitely the richer for it.”

 from The Meaning of Things, Applying Philosophy to Life, by A C Grayling

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