“After testing positive for COVID last week, I entirely lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste. The symptoms which prompted me to get tested were too mild to even mention, but when I tasted my coffee the following morning and found it as odorless and tasteless as tap water, my first thought was, ‘Please, God, not that,’ although I suspect my guardian angel’s first thought was, ‘Oh, he’s needed something like this for quite awhile.’ As usual, my guardian angel was right.”
Gibbs: Being cosmopolitan will not save your soul, but it is good that some people are cosmopolitan. In Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke says it is good for the church to have a few wealthy, well-travelled bishops. Cosmopolitan bishops are easier for rich people to respect, which makes it easier for rich people to come into the church. It is also much harder for a wealthy, well-travelled bishop to be intimidated or compromised by a rich layman. I think these are good arguments. I am glad that some people are cosmopolitan.”
Student: Don’t you find completely derivative art pointless and dull, though?
Gibbs: Most derivative art is dull because it aims to be wildly original. The sort of people who make originality a top priority are dull because they draw from a laughably small pool of influences. These days, every “wildly original” artist is either imitating de Sade or Duchamp: full-blown hedonism or full-blown Gnosticism. The less interested in originality you are, the more wide and diverse your influences can become. The artist who doesn’t care about being unique can draw from Michelangelo, Joyce, Bach, and Ingmar Bergman at the same time and not lose any sleep. And what a cadre of masters that would be!
“Our perspective on human Beauty is skewed by the glut of the Beautiful involved in the entertainment industry; when we think of human Beauty, we do not think of Helen of Troy or King David, but Heidi Klum. The sultry photographed faces gazing at us from the Victoria’s Secret show window have sullied the reputation of Beauty. If one wants to think of human Beauty aright, he ought to imagine a trio of adolescent boys from the 17th century walking twelve miles to get a glimpse of a princess. Such a journey is not simply allowable, but morally commendable.”
“While the lines of competition are drawn between nations, watching the Games tends to produce a remarkable balance between love of one’s own people and love of others. When watching, I intuitively pull for the United States, but I find myself easily won over to charismatic athletes from other countries. In distinguishing athletes by nation, the Games ask us to humbly marvel at the fact that people unlike ourselves are capable of besting us. What is more (what is wonderful), the Games often invite us to relish the fact others can best us. When competition is properly framed, even losers feel they have contributed to the revelation of something transcendent and profitable; this revelation helps calm the tumult which attends loss.”