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Before the Beginning, During the Middle, After the End

Before the Beginning, During the Middle, After the End

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The divisions that mark my subject are three. The first is that point where the world begins--where it appears from out of the mystery of non-being. The second lies somewhere between its progeny and its future--the times between beginnings and ends where we, the beneficiaries of our being-here, come together to sing a celebration of the wonder that it happened at all, and then intone the fear of its ending. The third division is a speculation on ends--our own and the ending of the world. I use these divisions to locate a something that comes from nothing onto a historical tradition that imposes a value on the progression of that something, and so requires a judgment on all that has passed. I first discuss these through religious attempts to invest life and history with purpose--for they form the major explanatory traditions of Western culture and are a thematic source of much of its greatest art. I continue with an art-critical approach where themes of process and purpose are located in artworks through their stylistic histories and ambitions. I indicate how present art, when open to reconstitute such themes, could change the nature of today's efforts to give art polemical purposes, and so provide new reasons for its making. I conclude with some stories, unevenly biographical, partly fictional, which I offer as parables for the developed themes and their transformations. This last aim is to elucidate a view of art as providing specific symbols for a cosmology of beginning, living, and ending. ""Krukowski's background as an artist and philosopher allows him to treat the topic of time from a unique vantage point. He writes eloquently, drawing on themes from religion, philosophy, and art to explore not only the three thematic times, but also the transitions between them, and the transitions to and from them."" --Susannah V. Levi, New York University, New York, NY ""Who better than an artist and philosopher, and a professor of both, to guide us through a bold exploration of the beginning and the end, with a rich and penetrating focus on the interplay of art, religion, and philosophy in framing the nature of life for the time in between. I salute Lucian Krukowski for giving us such an imaginative way . . . to explore this intriguing subject."" --Lattie F. Coor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ ""How does my life (or the world, or a work of art) begin? How does my life (my world, the world) end? What is the significance of what happens in between, of the way pleasure and pain form the parameters of a life well lived? Lucian Krukowski's meditations on these themes are a journey through speculative cosmology, aesthetics, and the art of living. These lyrical, personal, and analytically rigorous investigations of the ways in which human life is suspended, not between being (God, eternity) and nothingness, but between nonbeing and nonbeing, are a worthy addition to the tradition of such thinkers as Kierkegaard, Walker Percy, and Albert Camus."" --Claude Evans, Washington University, St. Louis, MO Lucian Krukowski is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Washington University in Saint Louis. He is the author of Ripe Musings (2011), Aesthetic Legacies (1992), and Art and Concept (1987). He is also a painter.
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