01 November 2005

Hear a Little Music

I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices.
But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important
to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums.
I just couldn't write anything without hope in it.
~ Oscar Hammerstein

A man should hear a little music,
read a little poetry,
and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares may not obliterate
the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Art has the power to either lift the soul to higher things or drag it through the muck that is the underbelly of humanity. This comes to mind because last night was a slow one ~ only one trick-or-treater all evening ~ perhaps they came around Saturday evening instead. After playing the piano for a couple of hours, I succumbed to the siren call of cable and watched Perry Mason. And then Law and Order. And then Without a Trace. It was after midnight when I finally turned off the technological bong.

The subject matters of both Law and Order and Without a Trace, while instructive, did not uplift my soul. They showed me the dregs of humanity; they showed me what happens when human beings are selfish, imprudent, intoxicated, immoral, unloved or misguided. There were actions and there consequences to those actions. But there was no real resolution. Only despair and defeat. We caught the bad guy, but there was no real peace afterwards, no reason to hope, no redemption, no beauty. Only the ugliness the perpetrator had left behind.

As an artist, it causes me great sadness that my creative brothers and sisters settle for mediocrity and crumbs when I know they are capable of genius and feasting. Why do so many settle for less than Truth? Beauty? Peace? Goodness? Perhaps for many artists ~ whether they be painters, singers, dancers, actors or writers ~ there is pressure to be avant-garde, and shocking. The more disgusting, ugly and soul-shattering, the better. One only has to look at the art exhibitions in New York and film and television award ceremonies in Hollywood in recent decades to see this disturbing trend.

"Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?”
So what is this trend that we are seeing - art imitating life or life imitating art? I believe that art is a relationship and that art and life imitate each other. And the trend we see on our televisions and in print media is indicative of something deeper, something hidden, a cancer so hideously ugly that it cannot remain hidden for long ~ an ugliness that comes out in their art. This monstrous thing is Fear.

Fear is a heavy burden that many of us carry. A daily battle we always seem to lose. This is art imitating life. Of this I have daily proof. If I am feeling depressed or sad, my music is depressed and sad and it is near to impossible to compose a happy melody. And judging by the offerings on my television screen, I can only imagine the depth of despair and fear that the writers of these shows have to live with on a daily basis.

My heart aches for them. It’s a painful existence. I continue to struggle with certain emotional and artistic bogeymen of my own. But I am a person of hope. And I believe that ugliness is a negative ~ the absence of beauty. That to eradicate the ugly, we must put in its stead the beautiful. Only by "hearing a little music" can we hold on to our sanity. Only by doing this, do we artists remain true to ourselves and to our gift.

In the name of the best within you,
do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst.
In the name of the values that keep you alive,
do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly,
the mindless in those who have never achieved his title.
Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture,
an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads.
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark,
in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish,

in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach.
Check your road and the nature of your battle.
The world you desired can be won,
it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.
~ Ayn Rand
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