Fears and Symbols: An Introduction to the Study of Western Civilization

By Elemér Hankiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
THE WORLD OF BEAUTY

“Every angel is terrible.”

Rilke, Duino Elegyies, 1

ART plays a vital role in protecting people against their existential fears and anxieties. It surrounds them with its symbolic structures and creates for them a world of beauty and harmony (without concealing the terror underlying beauty and harmony, as Rilke reminds us). These structures mesh with other symbolic structures constituting civilization.


ART

Music

We surround ourselves not only with myths and religions, values and beliefs, ideas and visions, but also with the sounds and rhythms, melodies and harmonies of music. It fills the void around us; the void of silence; the void of nonbeing. When it stops, silence and nothingness resume their empire around us. We whistle at night in a dark forest in order to feel ourselves less alone and less unprotected in the jungle of darkness. African tribes fill the void around themselves with the rhythmic beating of drums. When we sing, the sound waves fill the space around us. With a Walkman on our belt and earphones on our head we may be walking along one of the most hectic streets of a Bladerunner’s megalopolis and still feel ourselves at the center of a universe of harmony.

-205-

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Fears and Symbols: An Introduction to the Study of Western Civilization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Fear and the Social Sciences 5
  • Chapter Two - The World of Symbols 47
  • Chapter Three - An Alien World? 69
  • Chapter Four - The Garden of Eden 91
  • Chapter Five - The Image of the World 113
  • Chapter Six - The Moral Universe 137
  • Chapter Seven - The World of Guilt 157
  • Chapter Eight - The Rational World 181
  • Chapter Nine - The World of Beauty 205
  • Chapter Ten - The World of Play 219
  • Chapter Eleven - The World of Jokes 245
  • Chapter Twelve - The World of Trivialities 261
  • Chapter Thirteen - Symbols and Civilization 275
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 299
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