One. The world is too large. Until recently, I have perceived this to be an unfortunate yet undeniably true fact. A person may be well-read (that is, they have gotten their hands on a wide genre of reading material from varying fields of study, literary movements, and cultural backgrounds); well-traveled (they recognize value in the customs and heritage that define any given location, while also spending time in said location); or well-versed in music and art (they have acquired an appreciation for different styles, approaches and techniques). However, it is impossible for such a person to read every well-written book, visit every interesting place, listen to every great song, or see every beautiful piece of artwork; the world is simply too large. This fact is particularly true when we account for the not-so-good books, places, songs, and artwork that we encounter. So, what to do? Really, this isn't so unfortunate - it's liberating! The pressure is off to finish that huge stack of unread or unfinished books ... we must simply take our sweet time and thoughtfully explore each one we get a chance to pick up. More importantly, to me anyway, is the ability to take pleasure in each place we visit - to learn the culture, speak with the people, and allow ourselves to be transformed by the experience. I came across an NPR article about three weeks ago that I found to be an enlightening read. Not only did it address this anxiety of mine about the world being too large, but it opened me up to the idea of surrender (from which liberation naturally emanates). Enjoy!
The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything
Two. Osama bin Laden is dead. This concept is a bit hazy in my mind; I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet. The dominant emotion seems to be sadness ... but isn't that opposite of what nearly every other American is feeling in response to this news? Maybe. It's difficult to express ... I'm taken immediately back to 9/11 - to the firefighters, to the victims, to their families, and to our country. I feel sadness. Of course, I do believe this represents an important 'victory over evil' for America, but I want to be clear that it shouldn't be considered a victory built upon revenge. It's a victory steeped in pride, patriotism, and love for our country. Perhaps many of us will see this as a sort of closure, but the image of a man who was shot in the head for what he did will never evoke happiness for me, only sadness.
Three. What is art? It was not until my freshman year of college that I noticed how much this question perplexed me. As a medieval studies major, I made my way through Gothic Art, Medieval Art, Northern Renaissance Art, and even Modern Art; I spent a large part of my time looking at and discussing artwork as well as visiting various museums and galleries. While I couldn't argue with the exquisite detail and obvious beauty in more classic works, I had every problem with modern art. I'd always thought of it as 'non-art' - most of the pieces appeared to be so simplistic that anyone could slap something together and call it art. What I had yet to learn were the influences behind the style - modern art is now fascinating to me. But, we can still ask what establishes art as 'art' ... Aesthetics? Skill? Creativity? Emotion? Truth? The artist's intentions? The viewer's perceptions? Who knows!? Arguments can be made for and against each of these characteristics, plus some. I guess the only thing I can say for sure is that art is by no means an absolute; there are not really objective criteria for which to judge. Just as each person perceives beauty differently, each piece of artwork will shout 'beauty' to some and 'ugh' to others. So, I am no closer at answering my own question; but I am also no longer perplexed by or concerned with it. Rather, I am merely happy that art exists in this world, and okay with the fact that I won't get to see most of it :)
Four. On poetry. I came across the following words in one of my MCAT verbal passages the other day, and I think they're profoundly beautiful (thus, worth sharing). A bit on the random side, but somewhat connected with my discussion on the way artwork can be defined:
'There are many who are not gifted with the power of giving expression to the deeper sensibilities, who nevertheless experience them throbbing in their hearts. To them poetry appeals'