Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Accounting for Taste

Gone to meddlin' some might say when Ken Myers broaches the subject of preferences (either music or cannibalism!) on page 77 of All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes and proves that matters of taste are not wholly private and personal.

The author had already begun to draw the line in the sand on page 76 by suggesting that if a particular culture form encourages the sort of individualism that presupposes that one has to discover who s/he is independent of family and community then there is a problem.


Here's the reason we mothers (who have no taste and wore short shorts - giggle) are reading this book:

What should attract more attention is the effect of consistent exposure to
popular culture, whether or not the content is objectionable, on the internal
dispositions. The habits of mind, heart, and soul. In short the
qualities of character.


Aesthetic judgment is one way of determining merit or evaluating form, but is by its very nature more elusive than the scientific (quantitative or qualitative) method will allow. It requires patience, training, and a willingness to submit. Those are qualities that I'm sure all of us are striving to develop in our children, our charges.

Myers quotes a 1966 article addressing the aesthetics of popular art showing its limitations by contrast:
Great art reveals something about human nature because it is forced to
conform to created reality. It selects its material according to the
demands of the "Author of the reality to be grasped".

Now that's a new name for God, but I recognized Him.

He is our reference point.

In this same referenced article, it is argued that popular art cannot bear the sustained attention that high art can. We might remain well-acquainted with it, but the relationship is always superficial, never maturing into intimacy. pg 83

I appreciated the explanation surrounding celebrityism, another attribute of pop culture, and how TV talk shows play into this. And how sentimentality, another attribute, and its lack of sincerity permeates the atmosphere even into evangelicalism.

Myers just explains a lot.

He challenges my sympathies.

Because I watch television, listen to music, surf the world wide web, and enjoy fashion.

But because I think my life is characterized by a rootedness in objective reality, the subjectivism of popular culture is impotent for me.

Or is it?


  1. Dana,
    I won't say much but except about your sidebar. I love Ravi!

  2. I found myself wondering where a TV show like LOST lies in the cultural spectrum since it seems that it can withstand/bear sustained attention and dissection. It can withstand multiple viewings. And so on. I'm not saying LOST is high culture, but I'm wondering if something like LOST, in the sense that it invites further thought, could ever reach the point that it would be high culture within our culture?

    Could television ever be high culture? It seems so strange to suggest such a thing, but I can't help wondering, even though I don't much like TV.

    Here's hoping you don't hate LOST. And I think it is yet to be determined whether LOST is really worthy of such extra time and consideration.

    In other news, yes! we here are attempting to try and cultivate good taste (better taste) in our children. But our success remains to be seen. For now, we do our best. :)

  3. Greetings - first time at your site and I enjoyed chewing on your posts :) Several years back I had to take a course on multiculturalism in pursuit of ESL certification. It had to be one of the worst courses I've taken over the years. Cultural relativism and its humanistic base was so easily accepted by many of my classmates. Again and again I attempted to raise the question of absolutes (note I didn't even say Biblical absolutes) upon which the character of a cultural and its people is dependent. No one wanted absolutes - just as few seek real Truth. It is not an easy task raising a young person in this day and age of quick stimulus and response. I think there is a sub-culture - what fashionistas might refer to "the classic line" - that exists where some of prefer to live, breathe, and think. Personally, I think it is rather a classy place - lol!

  4. Loved this post, Dana. Although I have yet to read the book, I have heard/read lots from it and appreciate the points you made in particular. Remind me to loan you a great DVD by Geoffrey Botkin on High vs. low art that ties in with this discussion. You may be able to download it on

  5. I liked what he said about sentimentality also. It is a distinction worth paying attention to. I sometimes fear that my children won't eat their vegetables nor cultivate the more difficult tastes in music but I have seen my 2 oldest mature in this area.

  6. Hi Brandy!

    I really wanted to talk about taste buds today and how to develop them. I have some silly stories relating to dinner table antics :)

    About TV, high culture, and LOST:

    Unfortunately I've never watched LOST so I can comment on the show. I do know that someone from my county is an actor on the show :) Josh Holloway, grew up in Free Home, Cherokee County GA. But because I didnt go to high school here and he's a lot younger than I am, I cant really vouch for him.

    There is some degree of cross-over with TV and high culture according to Masterpiece Theater renditions of Jane Austen novels and the like.

    Thanks for stopping by HiddenArt.

  7. Actually, Cindy, Myers's comments about sentimentality in modern evangelism explained a lot about what I dont like about it. Couldnt have articulated it myself, but Myers insights help my thoughts solidify.