If men are going to persist on going to war we should insist on the return of pageantry. Let’s make all stealth airplanes brightly colored and outfit camouflage tanks with multicolored banners and flags. Let’s make military uniforms valuable not for durability but how much drapery and bright shiny baubles they have. Let’s blow horns and ring bells and bring back drummer boys. Let’s have a war where the best costumes win.
The Medieval’s did this. They valued proportion, light, color, and decoration because they valued the deeper significance of ordinary things. They wanted their lives to have a significance which they could call up at anytime. Umberto Eco wrote that the Medievals had a “prolongation of the mythopoeic dimension of the Classical period” a revival “caused by a new sense of the supernatural.” They wore majestic clothing because they believed it had significance. They had particular theories of music and art because they believed having those ideas reached into a world beyond their own. For them what they did, or wore, or made, was poetic.
Today many of us look back on those people as being primitive. We think of them as superstitiously, as being unable to differentiate fact from myth. The historian and sociologist Lewis Mumford went so far as to call them neurotic. Well guess what, you can’t have a life of meaningful significance if you think myth and poetry is neurosis.
Medieval thinkers were obsessed with having everything fit together in a type of aesthetic/religious/metaphysical concordance. They wanted what their thoughts to be reflected in the natural world. They wanted ideas and reality to be connected. They wanted truth and beauty to be interconnected or as Eco wrote, “truth was the disposition of form in the relation to the internal character of a thing; beauty was the disposition of the form in relationship to it’s external character.”
Art, poetry, music, can bring significance into our lives. It is a type of visual pageantry with a purpose. A philosophy ripe with ideas and thinking that can make our lives momentous. That doesn’t sound neurotic to me.