Popular Culture and the Expanding Consciousness

Popular Culture and the Expanding Consciousness

Popular Culture and the Expanding Consciousness

Popular Culture and the Expanding Consciousness

Excerpt

Many old ideas--even in the academic community, which presumably is always open to new thoughts--seem never to die; they are kept around until they become aphorisms, then are elevated to truth, and are finally enshrined in the museum of holies and from there cast their awful spell apparently forever because they have been placed above serious examination. This seeming sanctification has been especially real in the arts and with "truth." Both have been held to be universal and eternal and therefore separated from and superior to everyday life. "Truth and beauty," we are taught, do not change--the past is always with us.

Even in America, where we like to believe we are a forward- looking and realistic society, we are often taught by act if not in theory to over-respect the teachings of the past. Although many people might silently agree with Henry Ford's attitude that history is bunk, a large number--academics especially--believe so strongly in Santayana's injunction that if we forget the past we will be forced to relive it that they do not want to release it or depart from its lessons. Both attitudes are extreme. Emerson recognized the power the past holds over us ("Books are the best type of the influence of the past") but he also feared its heavy hand ("Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst"). As Emerson realized, much of the influence the past exerts derives from our timidity and fear, and a great deal springs from and is fed by snobbishness.

But no matter how slow the infusion, how great the obstacles, new concepts have in fact over the years seeped into our ideas of the nature of "beauty and truth." "The struggle of the gen . . .

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