>Know thyself! – The criticism of life


Matthew Arnold, author of Culture and Anarchy, claimed that art is the criticism of life.

In our society people are viewed through a lens which magnifies wealth, power and bloodlines, where instead it should magnify the moral qualities of character. We tend to praise those who perform great deeds, but neglect those who aren’t that very explicit or ”successful”, the ones who lead their ”hidden lives”. The world only cares about status, and is completely blind to the worlds within us. This dependency on status is all we read and hear about wherever we go.
Art, literature and music may help us notice, understand and appreciate those hidden lives that are waiting to be born. Most of the times, the hidden values being offered through culture are those of most interest to the ones interested in moral qualities. This is where we find philosophy and radical ideas rarely talked about in the mainstream arena. This is where spirit and man collide, as opposed to society where spirit and man collapse.
Society teaches us to judge a book by its cover, to depend on status for credibility and to look up to the rich and famous. Culture might help as a cure to society’s sickness.

I do not wish to see men of culture asking to be entrusted with power; and, indeed, I have freely said, that in my opinion the speech most proper, at present, for a man of culture to make to a body of his fellow-countrymen who get him into a committee-room, is Socrates’: Know thyself! and this is not a speech to be made by men wanting to be entrusted with power.
Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1882)

Earlier posts related to this subject:
Intelligent misanthropy – Part 1
Intelligent misanthropy – Part 2

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