Living well is the best revenge.
George Herbert 1593 - 1633
The story of heightened discernment begins on the fertile plains of east Africa four million years ago, when a few stylish apes decided to stand on their own two feet. A modest beginning to what proved to be a fascinating story of a uniquely human quality of impeccably good taste. The torch has been carried since the late 1950s by the Modernist movement.
In the characteristics of a small number everyday objects and creative works, Proper examines whether, far from always being in the eye of the beholder, beauty can be an intrinsic quality.
Conventional thinking dictates that heightened cultural discernment is somehow baked into the DNA of the most privileged among us. An attribute available only to those with deep pockets, a good bloodline, a classical education and exposure from birth to the very best the world has to offer. No such correlation exists. Conventional thinking is wrong. Even the term is the prefixing of one of the English language’s most attractive concepts with one of its least. Imagine how dispiriting conventional dressing might be, or conventional eating or, heaven forbid, listening to conventional music. Qualifying anything with ‘conventional’ strips away most of its value at a stroke. Aesthetic acuity is available to all of us. We just need to work at it and care enough to try.