Beauty is Precedent

Red Rope 24x 24 inches acrylic and collage on canvas by Gwen Meharg


Beauty is precedent.

Not so long ago a famous person (POTUS) misused the word.  Maybe it was the wee hours of the morning.  Maybe it was autocorrected.  Precedent and president DO sound similar.  But just to be safe here is the definition:

Precedent: an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances.

Dangerous Spring by Gwen Meharg 36 x 36 inches.

“Beautiful works survive sans virtue.
Virtuous works, sans beauty, do not.  ”

In my last blog, I mentioned a book I am reading, The Invisible Dragon, Essays on Beauty, by Dave Hickey.  The quote is from the book.

It is a slightly challenging read.   I am reading with the book in my right hand and a dictionary in my left.    I seldom need the dictionary to understand the meaning of words I don’t quite know.  But if Jubilee were to ASK ME what the word means, I could not give her a definition.

I am on a quest for clearer understanding and a broader vocabulary.

Here is an example of a sentence that would have been awesome in the ORIGINAL Pirates of the Caribbean.  (I adored the original.  The words were so beautiful.  The sequels-every last one of them- are shameful, – absolutely SHAMEFUL!)  There are probably better examples, but I came across this sentence first.  Here goes Dave Hickey, “The vivid, corporeal verisimilitude of these paintings, striving to beguile an unlettered audience, striving to change without changing, enlisted ravishing sensuality in aid of sacred circumstances and created the fulcrum upon which all future critiques of “truth besmirched by beauty” would turn.”

Friends by Gwen Meharg 48 x 36 inches in collection of Reflections of Glory

Honestly, folks, it has been a long time since I used verisimilitude in a sentence.     Using Google to double check the definition I pressed the little speaker button for pronunciation and OOPS!  Let us just say, I had the syllables in the wrong places.  (In case you are wondering, ver·i·si·mil·i·tude: the appearance of being real.)  Popular usage of the word peaked in the late 60s and has been on a steady decline since.  (I wonder if vocabulary itself has been declining since the late 60s along with reading?)

I don’t know if I have heard corporeal outside of science fiction – ever!
Beguile, yeah, I got that one!  I LOVE the use of fulcrum.  I am going to look for an opportunity to use fulcrum in a sentence.

My Favorite Tree by Gwen Meharg 36 x 48 inches

OOOH! OOOH!  This blog is the fulcrum upon which I realized my vocabulary is sorely lacking and committed to using grown-up words.  (And the use of “grown-up” here exemplifies my dearth of vocabulary. )

1,009,614 words, give or take, in the English language.  Most adults English speakers range manage only 10-35,000 words in their vocabularies.  It is estimated that Shakespear had 66,534 words at his disposal.

I keep wondering if the extinction of words in our general vocabularies contributes to our lack of understanding what is going on in the world and understand not only others but also ourselves.

We train our young children in feeling words so they can express their feelings without throwing a tantrum.  I believe our limited vocabularies contribute to the tantrum-ic nature of politics.  (SEE! I don’t have a word to describe the whiny baby attitudes of our governmental figures.)

I wonder if declining vocabularies affects our ability to enjoy beauty.  Tony Saladino, one of my art heroes, says that until you can articulate what it is you love about a painting you will not be able to appropriate that aspect into your own work.

What if a limited vocabulary limits our ability to appropriate beauty into our lives?

Beauty is precedent.
Teach your children well.
Be kind to yourself,
the world,
expand your vocabulary.
See what you might not have seen.

Share your favorite words with me.  We can grow together.

PS  One of my favorite raconteurs, Dave Hickey.


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