A Thing of Beauty

In 1967 I began to think about going to graduate school though I was thinking more about getting drafted.  When however I thought about the former, I realized I would need to apply and take the BirdGRE’s and get some letters of recommendation together.  I knew I could get one from my favorite teacher, but I was sort of lacking in that department till something showed up.

I took a class on Aesthetics; really it was a seminar, the only thing of its kind I had at college.  We met at the Professor’s house a couple blocks off campus, sat around in his living room and discussed Aesthetics.  Maybe we had eight people in the seminar.  I remember one guy talking with great enthusiasm about driving his little sports car at high speeds in the mountains and wondering if what he felt while doing so didn’t constitute an aesthetic experience.  We read stuff too like Plotinus and Kant.

The only “work” for the course was showing up for the seminars, writing some journal entries, and one long paper.  This was, by far, the most wide open and relaxed class I had taken.  I enjoyed the subject and I had gotten my hands on some Dexedrine.  So I took that and paced back and forth in our little kitchen in the apartment over the garage and thought up a whole paragraph in my head and then wrote it down and then thought up another and wrote it down.  The paper was exploratory and speculative though I had a general idea about where I was going….

 I wanted to disassociate the aesthetic experience from things people might call art—of any kind, and argue that it was an “everyday experience” that anybody could have because its primary locus was not the brain but the body.  So I concluded the guy’s sport car experience was an aesthetic experience, though my primary personal reference was basketball.

While I was not really tall enough to do it effectively I worked hard on my back to the basket game, especially on a quick turn around jumper.  On several occasions during pickup games especially, I did this turn around and had sort of an out of the body experience—I could sort of see myself with a little camera located over my head.  Somebody else had the ball, eye contact was made, and I would move away from my position five feet or so under basket out in quick movement towards the ball, so I caught it ten to twelve feet from the basket when I caught it in motion, mind you, and still in motion, and with the momentum of moving away from the basket, I caught it, turned in air, and made the fall away.

Once, maybe 30 years later, when I was over forty, I did the same thing in a pick up game at the “Y” and the guys, a bunch of strangers, spontaneously applauded when I successfully and surprisingly made that move.  Why not?  It was a thing of beauty.

So the Professor wrote on the paper that on the basis of it he would recommend me to any graduate school in the country.  So I picked up another letter of recommendation though I don’t believe I mentioned basketball in the paper.

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