It seemed to me, when I abandoned myself to this hypothesis that art might be real, that it was something even more than the merely nerve-tingling joy of a fine day or an opiate night that music can give; a more real, more fruitful exhilaration, to judge at least by what I felt. It is inconceivable that a piece of sculpture of a piece of music which gives us an emotion that we feel to be more exalted, more pure, more true, does not correspond to some definite spiritual reality, or life would be meaningless. Thus nothing resembled more closely than some such phrase of Vinteuil the peculiar pleasure which I had felt at certain moment in my life, when gazing, for instance, at the steeples of Martinville, or at certain trees along a road near Balbec, or, more simply, at the beginning of this book, when I tasted a certain cup of tea. Like that cup of tea, all those sensations of light, the bright clamour, the boisterous colours that Vinteuil sent to us from the world in which he composed, paraded before my imagination, insistently but too rapidly for me to be able to apprehend it, something that I might compare to the perfumed silkiness of a geranium.
Marcel Proust, The Captive, p. 381
Proust proposes, "It seemed to me, when I abandoned myself to this hypothesis that art might be real . . " Religions tend to promote the idea that the the divine transcendent is the true reality, and that everything in this world is a flawed copy (for that matter, so did Plato). Could it be possible that art is the same thing? We think of art as an attempt, usually flawed, of capturing the perfection of beauty, or, for that matter, the perfection of the divine. Could it be that art is the transcendent perfect reality, while everything in this world is actually the deeply flawed copy of art? Proust suggested, "It is inconceivable that a piece of sculpture of a piece of music which gives us an emotion that we feel to be more exalted, more pure, more true, does not correspond to some definite spiritual reality, or life would be meaningless." If perfection is unattainable, whether in the next world or in art, what is the point of this pain?