Essays and Vignettes

On this page, we will post reflections on Chesterton (and everything & everyone else).  Submissions are welcome.


 

~ AGAINST ASCHEMIOLATRY ~

12.17.14. by WJC

I recently got into a short but enthusiastic conversation about one of my favorite subjects: ASCHEMIOLATRY* – and it occurred to me that many people, sadly, are not acquainted with the word (h/t T.Bertonneau), the concept, or precisely why it so fires me up. Time for a refresher!

While I eschew aschemiolatry, I consider it a minor public service to point it out on occasion for the sake of those who have no name for it, and – as a result – they suffer its plague unwittingly, with no diagnosis and therefore no obvious antidote!

But be encouraged: there is a word for it, just as it – aschemiolatry* – is a definite and serious THING. Naming it is the beginning of wisdom.

Here in Albany, we are especially inundated by aschemiolatry. 1950’s-80’s architecture is a particular culprit, as are state-owned and operated facilities (go figure). Mind you – we are also blessed with great natural and man-made beauty all around us – but the photo below is a useful tool in discussing *the cult or worship of ugliness* aka ASCHEMIOLATRY.

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Photo credit: Stewart Cairns for the New York Times

Note the stark and familiar lines of our Capital City’s crown jewel, the Empire State Plaza. Granite, steel, marble (for shame!), prisonesque vertical and horizontal lines, austere blocks. An alien space craft (The Egg) hearkens to alternate life forms (in rejection of the beauty and wonder of the Human)!

In the right foreground, we get an extra-strength dose of taxpayer-funded desecration of art, by way of some metallic, larger-than-life abstract meditation on a floating tarantula, while in the distance there is a bizarro yellow tube-like ribbon decorating the edge of the reflecting pool. Alas, even the trees have been reigned in, trimmed into cubes in homage to the state workers who gaze down on them from their cube-shaped offices inside the nesting cigarette box towers (at left).

In the distance and reflected in the water, we see the contrastingly lovely Romanesque State Capitol – a throwback to the days when architects sought to design and build civic, cultural and ecclesiastical spaces that communicated meaning, scale, harmony, nature, and most of all Beauty to all men who would gaze upon or occupy their buildings.

Lots of times we simply float through the aschemiolatrous haze, breathing in ugliness as if it were normal and good or not there at all… because we are just inured to it. This atmosphere risks creating cynicism and lack of morale in the hearts of men.

But when we begin to awaken to the ugliness that pervades our air and water (not just art and architecture, but also music, manners, language, entertainment, writing, fashion, etc), we must not be dismayed! This awareness must be a call to arms! A springboard for our resistance and cultivation of the alternative, which is Beauty!

Resist cynicism, and eschew aschemiolatry!

*Aschemiolatry is a term coined by the great Thomas Bertonneau of the faculty at SUNY Oswego

 

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