Consumerism ≠ cultured

Wonderful observation made by W.H. Auden in 1967, quoted at Opus:

Again, while it is a great blessing that a man no longer has to be rich in order to enjoy the masterpieces of the past, for paperbacks, first-rate color reproductions, and stereo-phonograph records have made them available to all but the very poor, this ease of access, if misused — and we do misuse it — can become a curse. We are all of us tempted to read more books, look at more pictures, listen to more music than we can possibly absorb, and the result of such gluttony is not a cultured mind but a consuming one; what it reads, looks at, listens to is immediately forgotten, leaving no more traces behind than yesterday’s newspaper.

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

4 Responses to Consumerism ≠ cultured

  1. A. Julie says:

    Yes, yes, yes. Beautiful. Funny, Paul, I’ve been kind of immersed in 1960s stuff lately. (Not surprising, since one class is called Art Eros and the Sixties). But my bedside reading includes “Stranger in a Strange Land” (Heinlein), “Raids on the Unspeakable” (Merton), “Centering” (M.C. Richards), and “Matter and Memory” (Bergson). Consuming ‘culture’ is really a consumption of signifiers of culture… one can perform ‘culturedness’ without it ever becoming a reality. I guess one enacts ‘culturedness’? Repetition and absorption is key, somehow… Also of that era, Marcuse’s “One Dimensional Man” is a beautiful text, one I had to read too swiftly for class to absorb as well as I’d like.

    • A. Julie says:

      Trying to find a page number for the Auden quote… no luck yet… but found this gem: [T]he majority never read anything twice. The sure mark of the uniliterary man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. . . . It was for them dead, like a burnt-out match, an old railway ticket, or yesterday’s paper; they had already used it. Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty or thirty times during the course of their life.” [from An Experiment in Criticism]
      I love the library… just requested An Experiment in Criticism; they’ll hold it at the desk for me. (When I’ll actually read it, that’s another question.)

      • A. Julie says:

        Page 128 of the 1968 publication… probably.

      • pcNielsen says:

        Nice. I read so little in the first place (to my chagrin) that re-reading something I think is very good is always an option. I’m just finishing The Case for Working with Your Hands by Matthew Crawford, and am considering re-reading the first half (the second half seemed to be an attempt at sneaking an academic paper into a mass-market targeted book, which normally I wouldn’t mind except that the first half was so enjoyable and the second half fails to actually make the case as the title implies).

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