In the grocery store checkout line I recently overheard a harried mother resignedly talking about the books her daughter was reading – not very inspirational, not very informative. . . As a matter of fact, a bit disconcerting, and then she said, seemingly mustering up a modicum of hope, “ Well, at least she’s reading!” I don’t think she truly believed that was good enough, and I found myself wondering if there were some socially acceptable way I could interject myself into a conversation I wasn’t a part of and offer unsolicited advice. It took me way too long to try and concoct a plan, and even if I had, I wonder if I would have had enough self-assertiveness at that particular moment to carry it out.
(In case you are conjuring up images of me going around as Miss Busy Body, eavesdropping on random private conversations, imagine a jam-packed checkout line. And did I mention she was on her cell phone?)
Those of us who have thought a great deal about books and have read and reread exhortations about twaddle, and the best books by the best minds, can probably compose title lists in our sleep. But then I began to wonder about areas beyond living books. Were there places in my life where twaddle existed beyond books? I had a slightly sick feeling in my stomach. I suspected that Twaddle had probably moved right in and was not only taking up residence, but had been living there cosily for quite some time.
I can think boldly about the unexamined life not being worth much, but examining my own life is something else entirely. Usually I find things I would much rather leave right where they are, thank you very much. That’s the thing about Twaddle. It’s easy to look down one’s nose when you see her hanging out with someone else, but when she’s being hosted at my house, I tend to bring out more guest towels.
“But I just like _______.”
“I know it’s not the best, but I grew up with _______.”
I could come up with such rationalizations all day long.
After some reflection, I came up with two areas worth perusing: Music and Art. I decided on these for a number of reasons, I think.
One: Music and Art are powerful and profound avenues to the spiritual and eternal.
Two: I love music and I love art.
Three: My husband is a published composer, poet and musician.
Four: I wish I were an artist.
Five: Somehow these areas are considered completely subjective by most people and I wonder about that.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) I have no solid or profound conclusions as of yet as I have just begun to consider these things. Instead I’ll talk about some of the things percolating in my mind. Perhaps others of you are on similar quests and I could benefit from a conversation.
I start with this quote by C. Mason – great Ideas demand great Art
We begin to understand that mere technique, however perfect––whether in the rendering of flesh tints, or marbles, or of a musical composition of extreme difficulty is not necessarily high Art. It is beginning to dawn upon us that Art is great only in proportion to the greatness of the idea that it expresses; while what we ask of the execution, the technique, is that it shall be adequate to the inspiring idea. But surely these high themes have nothing to do with the bringing up of children? Yes, they have; everything. In the first place, we shall permit no pseudo Art to be in the same house with our children; next, we shall bring our own facile tastes and opinions to some such searching test as we have indicated, knowing that the children imbibe the thoughts that are in us, whether we will or no; and lastly, we shall inspire our children with those great ideas which shall create a demand, anyway, for great Art.
Parents and Children, p. 262
Wow. “no pseudo Art to be in the same house with our children. . .” and “we shall bring our own facile tastes and opinions to some such searching test. . .” I can already see my CD collection trembling. . .
The relationship between great art (and by the word art I mean pictorial/sculptural art as well as music or the written word) and the greatness of the communicated idea is proportional. She even goes so far as to say perfect execution of that artistic endeavor is not good enough. The song may sound pretty, the painting may be beautiful, I may love it because of an emotional attachment, but what is it saying? (I also think the converse of this idea is true, that is, a great idea demands more than competent technique to communicate it greatly.)
In response to his apprentice’s comment that Art is Beauty, the painter Diego Velazquez says in de Trevino’s book, I, Juan de Pereja, “No, Cristobal. Art should be Truth; and Truth unadorned, unsentimentalized, is Beauty.”
How can I teach what I don’t know, really know? Anything I teach must be that which I know in the life of the soul.
I’ve got some CDs to sort through. . .
© Rebekah Brown Hierholzer 2012