On Imitation of Beauty / by Ethan Anthony

Architecture, the term, covers a lot of ground. From large to small, grand to diminutive, open to closed and good to bad. Although many will claim that there is no good or bad, no objective quality of beauty or ugliness, that beauty is after all in the eye of the beholder, this is a prevarication.

There is emphatically beauty and it is objective and outside of us. There are also markers of value that can seem beautiful because of their inherent meaning. Money seems 'good' because to have it is to have the potential of other things we can buy. Money in and of itself though is absent the quality of beauty or ugliness.

Because we want something we see the means to achieve it as beautiful and obstructions in our way as ugly. Perhaps in another situation that same obstruction might be beautiful. A river is beautiful for its wildness and power when we do not need to cross it in a hurry and the bridge is out.

Beauty in the creation of human hands also has inherent value. This is the reason we are inspired to imitate powerful works when we see them. Not only are we inspired to seek out the Divine in everyday objects and to incorporate them in our own work, others, on seeing the Divine in our work are inspired to imitate it in their own work.

When it is the Divine that is inspiring the imitation it must be tolerated for that is the way the Divine spirit propagates itself, through inspiration. Though it is disappointing that those who imitate us effectively rob us of one or more of the fruits of our labor, still the Divine mission is achieved and the effect of our work is doubled in that the reach is extended far beyond what we might have done by ourselves alone. And this is a Good Thing.

There is a special hell though for the thief in the night who has grown accustomed and rationalized the theft of the work of others, most especially the intellectual property of others. There are those who prefer to steal the work of the artist rather than to hire the artist. Perhaps there is an inherent evil in the approach or there is a fear of admitting that the other is a spiritual superior one needs to complete the journey.

Those who steal the work of the artist who labors for the love of humanity and spirituality are the most desperately lost spirits of all for it is impossible to steal the best qualities of a truly original work. It will always shine out its bright clear light of truth and the imitation will always look like what it is, a poor attempt at copying the external manifestations of the internal genius of truth in the great original work.

A work that is truly inspired by greatness is never a copy because the inspiration of the artist changes it internally and a new light of genius is revealed. And no copy can ever rise to greatness, at its best it is a good copy, at worst it is an imperfect copy. Neither are satisfactory food for the soul.