Monday, November 9, 2020

Greatest of all time


I am drawn to superlatives. I like numbers. And I like the unmitigated absolutism of "best".

The best songwriter is Dylan.

The best painter is Caravaggio.

The best soccer player is Messi.

And yet strangely it turns out that

The best songwriter is Joni Mitchell.

The best painter is Otto Dix.

The best soccer player is Maradona.

I know. It's confusing.

Among the ongoing series contained in this blog I began one called "The Hundred Greatest Albums". And the aegis of the series is that each album is individually the greatest album ever regardless of the others- each individually better than any else. And while, like so many concepts in Clerkmanifesto, this device contained a comic hubris and a fool's bravado, it simultaneously spoke to what I deeply believe and desperately need to learn.

There appears to be big problems and contradictions expressed in both of the following:

1. Who can say in art and human endeavor what is The Best?

2. How can two things each be greater than the other?

And yet as I have lived with this way of looking at things over time this has become more true to me despite all problems and contradictions.

Not long ago I would have said with some passion that Caravaggio was the greatest painter ever. But we look for simplicity sometimes where it doesn't belong. Caravaggio is indeed the greatest painter who ever lived, easily. But so too is Van Gogh the greatest painter who ever lived. If Caravaggio must then be a greater painter than Van Gogh, and Van Gogh must be a greater painter than Caravaggio, then so be it. 

We look for complexity sometimes where it doesn't belong too.

That concludes today's "official" post, if there was such a thing, which there isn't. But whatever it is, these remarks above serve as an introduction to an addition I am making to "My Recommended Books" page.  I would describe this page as undergoing major renovations. In addition to now containing my recommended books (the greatest 100 books of all times), the greatest 100 albums, and recommended Romantic Comedies (still just "recommended Romantic Comedies"), we will be adding in "The Hundred Greatest Artists" or "Artworks". I'm still deciding. Since that page is increasingly the hub of clerkmanifesto I'm also trying to make it more like a trip to a magical bazaar and less like rummaging through an attic. If you're interested check it out. If you're not interested then, um, I can't think of any advice. Follow your heart?

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