Why Look Closer?

A question that comes my way fairly frequently is some variation on, “Doesn’t examining how and why pleasure, love, and all that works destroy the enjoyment of them?”

The answer, of course, is, “Definitely not.”

I know of only one thing that is endangered by knowing how it works, and that is magical illusions. Some people very much enjoy knowing how a magician does his tricks and are impressed all the more by the skill and cleverness involved; but most of us, I think, would rather not know, and keep the illusion intact.

But that, you see, is based on deception. It’s an honest and openly agreed-on deception, but in this case, the illusion is the thing. Most of the audience gains nothing by seeing how it works. On the other hand, those taking part in areas of complex beauty not based on deception gain immeasurably by knowing how things work.

It works on the level of basic knowledge:

  • Anyone and everyone can wonder at the beauty of the night sky. The more an astronomer studies and discovers, though, the more marvelous it all is revealed to be. Those who know the most cannot take their eyes off the stars.
  • Oenophiles learn about the vintner’s craft not to make wine themselves but to better enjoy the wines they taste.
  • Musicians hear music on the level every listener does and, simultaneously, in ways having to do with how it was composed and performed, and through that they gain far deeper enjoyment.

It works on the level of performance:

  • Every artist strives to learn new techniques in their art, and loves it the more, not less, with every revelation.
  • A lover who knows how to pleasure their beloved in a variety of ways can express love with eloquence denied those who think things “just happen.”
  • No chef would trust a sublime dish to mere guesswork.

And people ask if it is better not to know what is going on, or know why a thing is a good thing?

Humans are wonderful, complex, beautiful creatures, and capable of deftly navigating the obstacles to fulfillment that exist naturally and which we set up for each other and ourselves. But walking about with blinders and a veil is no way to get there. Knowing what works and why will bring the ability to go far beyond what most even imagine is possible. Little improvements and insights add up to amazing benefits.

On top of that, the ability to see the beautiful for what it is not only doesn’t damage the ability to see the beauty, it adds a fuller appreciation for the thing, and layers of wonder.

One thought on “Why Look Closer?”

Join the conversation (new commenters may not appear immediately)

Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure.