I had a discussion with my son last night about various topics, but it touched heavily on the notion of taste in matters of art, whether vulgar or refined. Being my son, he’s had exposure to a lot of pop culture (tv & movies & comics), to my bugaboos and personal detestations (Republican cant, Feminist cant, etc.), but also some exposure to the old-fashioned fine arts (classcial music, English literature and especially that wonderful old scop, Mr. Shakespeare), something of European history, and a bit of what little I have to pass on of philosophy.
What he will do with this mish-mosh is his own dialectical business at this point. But I fully expect him to chase his own intellectual tail around and around until, in desperation, he acknowledges that he likes what he likes, stops worrying about how ‘right’ it is, but also realizes that although his tastes evolved in a welter of urges from self, child, father, high school intellectual moralities, pop-TV, and – of course – from his own various rebellions and reactions to these implanted judgments and desires, still it is his own reason in concert with this and also with his essential “taste” (his ingenium) which must maintain or modify the welter. If he understands that, given this welter of affections and affectations, he himself must evaluate it and junk it or use it as he sees fit, then I consider that a decent piece of parenting.
However many alien tastes may have been implanted and accepted in us, taste will still revolve around the individual and his perceptions; some things will not stick, some things will stick too well and in the end require prying loose, and others we will discover to have foreshadowed our proper – our self-styled as opposed to adopted – path of taste. And ’twill ever be a dialectical rodeo within the head and heart: low-brow, mid-brow, and high- or pseudo-high- brow.