Saturday, October 22, 2005

Piste Top and Plato


In the Piste Top nightclub, with its mirrors and expensive black furnishings, Carmen and I were sipping Benedictines and waiting for the glamorous young Filipino band.

"What do you think of Rosa, the lead singer?" asked Carmen.

"She's got a nice pantat," I commented.

Seconds later I became aware of a figure behind me.

"Ah, Rosa, how are you tonight?" asked Carmen.

"About to go on stage," said Rosa, "and I'm sakit perut. Diarrhoea."

"Want something for it?" asked Carmen.

"I'll be OK. I've taken a tablet." So saying, she exited stage left.

"I'm not so sure about her pantat," I said.

"We should try to see absolute beauty, divine beauty," said Carmen, straight faced. "That is beauty not corrupted by human flesh. Beauty that's not a pile of perishable rubbish. Think of an angel that never needs to go to the loo."

"Eh?"

"That's from Plato. The Symposium. Not the bit about the angel, but the rest of it."

"Plato?"

"This Greek bloke," said Carmen, giggling loudly. "About three hundred years before Christ. He wrote things."

"What did he say about Filipino singers?"

"In The Symposium it says we fall in love with one particular person. Like I fell in love with my doe-faced friend, at university, and then I realised it wasn't just my friend I fancied. There were lots of good looking people. And anyway, my friend had some disgusting habits and was no angel."

"Plato?"

"Right. Plato and Socrates. Eventually we learn to love all physical beauty, not just one particular person."

"Is that good or bad?."

"Good if it means we're not a slave to one individual's cuteness."

"Slave?"

"Yeah. The next stage is when we realise that the beauty of the soul is more important that the beauty of the body. Think of Min. Think of a handicapped child."

"Min. Yes. I like the little soul, but not his body. Min may sometimes seem a little odd but he's got a sweet nature."

"My university friend was not always sweet-natured. And isn't it strange how quickly someone changes from looking like a doe to looking like a hippo."

"So what else does Plato say?"

"We're looking for the kind of beauty that's eternal. Absolute beauty. Not beauty that only lasts a few years. Eternal beauty's more valuable than gold or heroin. When we see divine beauty we'll do good things. We'll act morally. We'll be loved by God and become immortal."

"Sounds sort of Greek?"

"It ties in with some Christianity and Buddhism."

The band started singing something about "Money, money, money..."

"They should be playing Mahler," said Carmen.

At the interval I had a question for Carmen. "Plato believed that if we have a knowledge of divine beauty we will do the right thing. Plato might say that if Hitler had had more knowledge, he wouldn't have been so evil? But don't some people freely choose to do what they know is wrong? And aren't mentally backward people often more kind and decent than highly educated people?"

"Morality isn't just a matter of knowledge," said Carmen. "Effort comes in somewhere. And suffering and self sacrifice. And learning from one's mistakes. And love and goodness. Lots of things."

"Life is a puzzle."

"Have you read Kierkegaard?" asked Carmen. "Good bloke Kierkegaard."

"What did he say?"

"He said, 'I believe that which is absurd.'"

"Sounds sensible to me. Very sensible."

~~