Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature and Culture by Yi-fu Tuan
Conventional wisdom suggests that aesthetic experiences - those moments when the senses come to life - are important only after more basic needs have been met. In this inspiring wealth of provocative ideas, Yi-Fu Tuan demonstrates that feeling and beauty are essential parts of life and society. The aesthetic is shown to be not merely one aspect of culture but its central core - both its driving force and its ultimate goal. Beginning with the individual and the physical world, the author's exploration progresses from the simple to the complex. Tuan starts by examining the building blocks of aesthetic experience - sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste - and gradually expands his analysis to include the most elaborate of human constructs, including art, architecture, literature, philosophy, music, and landscape. This leads him to the realm of politics, where he grapples with the fundamental question of the relationship between goodness and beauty, and of how the aesthetic can become a moral force within society. To guide the reader along this journey, the author describes how the aesthetic operates in four widely disparate cultures: Australian aboriginal, Chinese, medieval European, and modern American. Yi-Fu Tuan, one of our most influential and original thinkers, brilliantly conveys the profound fascination of multisensory reality, and in so doing enables us to make connections among even the most diffuse elements of our lives. While Tuan does not ignore human folly, Passing Strange and Wonderful is a celebration of the world around us, our experiences, and our creations.