Classive: Notes Toward a Definition

This, below, the preamble to an old book of notes, chapters, really, 40 chapters that considered American history in entire, every art, every craft, every variation.  The thing is cumbersome, not likely to be published in its present form, if at all.  Yet, opening statements, because brief, would like sharing for the introduction of a useful, descriptive word, “Classive”.

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The Phaistos Disc (recto); Minoan, c.1700-1600 BC. (courtesy Getty Images)

To study “antiquity” is to study the distant past, to study the “modern” is to study the recent past, to study the “classive” is to study the past, the present, the future: the Beautiful, the Good, the True are always present, are always Classive.  There has never been a new classicism, except perhaps in the first realization by ancient Greeks that, in fact, the Beautiful, the Good, the True exist. 

…Art-histories have seldom been more in error than now they are.  Why?  Thucydides, I guess. Intertheoretic reduction. Proposing an ending, politically concocting a present, inventing a past, to explain the present. Progressive art-historians do not comprehend history (nor do paperwriters whose news is the dying old story each day protracted by some wonder pill … just, let the old thing go): no, Progressive historians concoct a narrative, invent a past, calculate a present, propose a future to influence a political cause … any fashionable cause, one cause will do as-well-as another to serve pride, to win political influence, to gain financial power, you know, the typical, petty vices. Sure, we all enjoy the the spilling of the inkwell, the splattered splotch, the Rorschach Test, the making-up, the sciency make-believe that the spilled-splotch has ontological existence beyond a peculiar phantasy or text-book illustration.

Egyptian Calendar, Kom Ombo Temple, Luxor; c. 100 B.C.

We are human.  We are goofy, more goofy when thinking ourselves, wise. Most goofy when thinking ourselves, scientists, when thinking ourselves, right. Think yourself mistaken, completely, utterly, embarrassingly mistaken and you might, this one time, be absolutely, correct.

Why, in the first instance, should we consider art-history; why, in the second instance consider art-history; why ever consider art-history? What does progressive art-history matter: whatever the matter of art-history, good and reasonable people choose Beauty, most every time.  We buy Beauty, we visit Beauty, in longing we admire Beauty; we delight in Beauty when Beauty is close; we make beautiful things for profit, for pleasure, for need and by necessity, and sometimes, we make a thing beautiful because Beauty calls itself forth, through us.

Roman “Farming” Calendar (date uncertain)

Artists create beautiful things here-and-there, now-and-again.  Great artists conceive Beauty, consistently, because great artists engage in The Classive Conversation.  “The Classive Conversation”? Hum. What is that? With whom do great artists converse?  With Homer, yes, and with all who have created thoughts, objects, and actions that abide in excellence, that assume a soul in man.  Conversing, responding to generations past, artists, and you and me, speak into the future where others wait to hear, to be informed and delighted, to learn from your experience what is worth remembering. As you know, you and I speak in words and in thoughts inherited from time-out-of-memory, each word, each thought developing along conversational lines, familial themes of familiar subjects, of fabulous hopes and fancy dreams, and great imaginings first articulated by us when fire-warmed, close, protected from the wolf and the mounding ice. We speak, and when we do, we speak of abiding things, “Beauty, Goodness, Truth”. Seldom do reasonable people by rote repeat bumper-sticker ideologies, unless college initiated. Convivial people share goodness by habit, free and easy. Of all we share, “family, days, doings”, we best remember the words and thoughts most Good, most True, most Beautiful, all else we forget. Generation into generation accents change, languages quiet, and disappear, Age-into-Age most every syllable is forgotten, except for a few words that keep within themselves some quality of Beauty or Truth that merits remembering: all else we forget.

I know, as you know, as propagandizing historians do not know, Goodness, Truth, and Beauty abide beyond the Day’s fashionable change.  Marginalia, temporal enthusiasms, et cetera, seldom survive the million-mind-sieves of history. Time, and time again has demonstrated that most sentences, most opinions run-out-of-breath with the speaker.  It seems that only things which are Beautiful, are Good, are True survive the lips, the ears, the eyes, the generation in which they are made

Philip-Louis Debucort (1755 – 1832); French Revolutionary Calendar, 1794

We witness around us the failure of the “modern” and no one, no one outside the community of tenured progressives, cares.  Why?  Because the rainbow of modernists (socialists, feminists, communists, ecoists, marxists, scientists, fascists, and other ists of isms) did not participate in The great, Classive Conversation; modernists presumed everything into nothing, and now have nowhere to go, nothing in reason to say. Shh. Listen to the academical, political squealings. You know, that is not conversation. Progressives end conversations, sometime with the pierced scream, sometimes with the dull slogan, sometimes with the knuckled fist, sometimes with broken glass, sometimes with the match-burned book, sometimes with the force of law.

Louis Lafitte (1770 – 1828); French Republican Calendar, (Germinal, March, Marz) 1797-1798

Most always, Progressives end conversations in accusations, damnations, self-gratifications, as, I am certain, they have done with you, as they have done with me, as they do with one another, vehemently.  Modernists, Progressives, Marxists seldom recognize that each thought, thought, that each word, worded is fossilized upon birth, as are all thoughts, as are all words fossilized when not living through verdant Beauty in healthful Goodness to abiding Truth.

We Classivies refer to the modernist conceit as, “hubris”.  I know, as you know: The ends of hubris are ridicule, shame, ignominy, obscurity, oblivion, a dusty voice shadowing into the vacuum of time. 

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In these essays we shall locate American aesthetics within our continuing, Classive Conversation. Along the way we shall spotlight much of what progressives have attempted to mask in darkness; we shall resurrect much of what was violently crucified in progressive iconoclasms; we shall recover and then reweave the Classive threads cut from progressive histories; we shall boldly, honestly follow themes unique to our republic, “Liberty, Enlightenment, the Paradise of Beauty”, that high hope of we Americans to create the City Beautiful, a civic equilibrium which allows peace to a panicked world by the example of magnificence in these United States.

Gil Elvgren (1914 – 1980); “February”

Our study begins with the Founding Generations, those generations of great men born in the British Colonies of North America between 1700 and 1776 Anno Domini (A.D. [the year of the Lord]).  Employing dates … here … I must pause to comment on that absurd idea invented by progressive historians, a lazy error: the “century”, the “decade”, the awkwardly conveniently assembly of occurrences by arbitrary number.  Yes, I have little patience for progressively dumb, decade mongering.

For instance: Most likely, Jesus of Nazareth was born between the years 6 and 2 Before Christ (B.C.) in the Christian reckoning.  In the Hebraic reckoning, Jesus was born between the years 3756 and 3760.  In the Roman reckoning, Jesus was born circa 750 Anno Urbis Conditae (A.C.U., “from the founding of the City [Rome]”) of the XII Consulship, Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus.  In which reckoning did the XIX Century A.D. exist?  In which does the 20th Century?  Is there a Twenty-first C.E. division of reckoning which is anything but the arbitrary fancy of academic coercion?  And that, from the BoC, the “Birth of Christ”. No, there is not a thing, any thing which is bracketed by the nonexistent century, the nonexistent decade . Progressive “century mongering” is so absurd a construction that one can only ignore it.  And so, in these easy, friendly essays, froebel block notions of progressing centuries and personalitied decades will not be employed. Here, accurate definitions and honest observations will serve Truth. We shall leave forever the commonly laughable Zeitgeist (the “Spirit of the Time” … what a “dumb” notion) in the past to be in not being.  Then, let us consider the Founders. 

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From the Preface
Progressives instruct: “Senses cannot be trusted. The self cannot be known. Except: You are racist.” Of “Beauty, Goodness, Truth” … well, Progressives insist that you are unqualified to offer opinions because you are not a doctor of progressive aesthetics … and you believe the progressives, you distrust yourself, you deny your senses, and you are mute.  So, where shall we go? Where shall you go to find voice, to gain confidence.

I hope that I can help you gain confidence in yourself, in the truth of your eye, in the judgment of your mind.  I am of the opinion that you are welcome to your opinion.  I intend to free you from the mind-manacles of progressive compulsion, progressive coercion, “PC”. I intend to qualify you to offer opinions on art, on aesthetics, on most any particular of most all arguments advanced by progressives.  It is my purpose to show that which is Progressive, that which is Classive, and leave it to you to determine which ethic shall abide in these united states. 

At the ending of his life, Leonardo of Vinci lamented that he failed to achieve that one thing necessary to great art, symmetria prisca, “pure symmetry”.  You will recall: Some few years before Leonardo’s birth, we Classives began to recover those civic and literary arts hidden for the worst part of a millennia.  You will recall the long climb of Classive Civilization up from the shadows; you will remember the effort of genius after genius, Age into Age in search of pure symmetry, a search nearly accomplished one-hundred-years-ago in American Civic Art, in a symmetria prisca so close that we might touch it. Then, the progressive fall into modernist darkness.  Now, for one-hundred-years we have suffered progressive decline.  We have suffered progressive dialectics (I might say, “Progressive Aesthetics”, but there is no such thing [“aesthetics”, the philosophy of Beauty … progressivism is indifferent, might say, “blind” to beauty]). We have suffered nincompoops, ecoists, feminists and socialists, and other envious haters of Beauty and Truth, and yet we Classives survive.

Hanna-Barbara Animation (artist unknown); Mother’s Day with The Jetsons, 1980

Smile: Wisdom’s Classive Flame burns warm, burns bright; our Classive fellows from the past cheer us on; our Classive fellows in the future urge us ahead.  Come! Look ahead. Look ahead one-hundred-years. That’s not so far. We can win one-hundred-years. Look ahead one-thousand-years. We must win. We must not allow the world to again progressively fall into one-thousand-years of darkness and decay. Look ahead two-thousand-five-hundred-years, that space in time that separates us from the promise of our first Classive Age, and what do you see. You should see, I hope you see, a maturity into Goodness, into Beauty and Truth, the ancient, Classive promise, fulfilled. 

If by grace you excellent persons of the future mature our Greek statuary, poetry, democracy, our Roman architecture, law, morals, our European culture, invention, song, our American liberty, meritocracy, tékhnē, I must offer a sincere, “thank you” for striving toward symmetria prisca. Your joyful labor was worth the effort, I would like to think.

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Following that old diatribe, I hesitate to mention the Classive Tours now being offered by The National Civic Art Society. Even so:

The National Civic Art Society will be hosting the first walking tour in our series “The Classive Tradition: The Beauty, Goodness, and Truth of Washington, D.C.” led by NCAS Research Fellow Michael Curtis.

Tours, which are outdoors, are limited to two hours in length and begin at 10:00 AM at the location indicated. The cost per tour is $10. You can register HERE. NCAS members, students, interns, and Hill staffers may obtain free tickets by e-mailing info@civicart.org. If you have any questions, please e-mail info@civicart.org or call (202) 670-1776.

Tour I: Capitol Hill – Saturday May 15, 10:00 AM – noon
Classive Order: The challenge of Knowledge, Conduct, Governance embodied in American Classive temples.

  • U.S. Capitol
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Library of Congress, Jefferson Building

Meet at Le Bon Café, 210 2nd St SE.

Tour II: The Grand Avenue – Saturday May 22, 10:00 AM – noon
Classical America: The Muse, the Father, the People symbolized.

  • National Mall
  • Washington Monument
  • Jefferson Memorial

Meet outside the Washington Monument Bookstore, 15th St., National Mall.

Tour III: President’s Park – Saturday June 5, 10:00 AM – noon
A Republic of Virtue: Virtues necessary to a republic, Authority, Community, Commerce.

  • White House
  • Lafayette Square
  • U.S. Treasury Department

Meet at the entrance of Teaism at 800 Connecticut Ave NW.

Tour IV: Liberty Stroll – Saturday June 12, 10:00 AM – noon
National, Political, and Personal Liberty: The Statue: not free, at Liberty to approach Divinity.

  • Lafayette Park; Lafayette, Rochambeau, Kosciusko, Von Steuben
  • Treasury; Hamilton & Gallatin
  • Decatur House

Meet at the entrance of Teaism at 800 Connecticut Ave NW.

Tour V: Honoring Heroes – Saturday June 19, 10:00 AM – noon
Sacrifice and Remembrance: Memory, Honor, Forgetfulness.

  • Lincoln Memorial
  • National World War II Memorial
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial (and other memorials as time permits)

Meet outside the Lincoln Memorial Bookstore.

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If for time and distance you are unable to join the tours, and if you are interested, you might later join with your hand-computer by a recorded, in-person tour (supplemented with didactic details, still-photographs, a location map, et cetera) soon to be available. Could be, The National Civic Art Society will sponsor those “Classical Heritage”, D.C. architecture and monuments tours; could be, a national, content producer will offer the tours; either way, the tours will be available through the LearnAndKnow website (premiering, Fall, 2021) and through many other online hosts.

Then too, the guidebook, The Classical Architecture and Monuments of Washington, D.C.: A History and Guide allows something of the concise content and smart organization of the “Classical Heritage” tours. The expansive, “Classive” tours are a thing altogether different, an idea now being shaped into a snappy, nine-part television series (whose first, pilot episode, is now in pre-production), and shaped into a richly illustrated, comprehensively long book.

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