Saturday, October 4, 2008

I Heart Art

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

I Crave It, Too

The only good part of the summer during which my father was dying was my tour-guide internship at the Museum of Philosphy, which had space at Hunter College in New York City for only a single stretch of several months. With my dad, wasting away at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital uptown, I was feeling pretty philosophical, though I had never before been attracted to Philosophy.

That summer, I learned about Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill among many other philosophers. This week's "New Yorker" includes an article on Mill and I enjoyed reading it and being reminded of that heavy, delightful, heavy summer.

Before reading the article, I never knew that Mill had suffered from a crushing depression and had gotten himself out of it two years later, in 1828, by reading poetry, particularly that of Wordsworth and Coleridge. And then Mill also became a fan of the art displayed in Italian churches of that time, and loved Mozart.

The "New Yorker" critic made Mill delicious to me:
Mill's theory of freedom...-- that people want a rich life where knowledge increases, new discoveries are made, and new ideas found, where art flourishes and science advances. If you don't want that kind of society, you don't want liberty, in Mill's sense.

What a perfect vision of liberty -- to include people, making and valuing art.

Art Gives My Rabbi, and Me, Hope

Rabbi Kleinbaum opted to deliver her sermon for Rosh Hashanah, Day 1, in town-hall style this year, and invited live questions from the congregants. The last of them asked, "What still makes you hopeful?"

"Art, and human relationships and the natural world," she responded.

I love art, too, and tonight, especially the R&B-musical kind. Driving home from my haircut and dinner with my mom, I blasted WBLS-FM and KISS-FM alternately, depending on which one was playing the best song.

Robin Thicke's "Magic Touch" came on and a bunch from the late-80s, including an all-time favorite, Shalamar's "Second Time Around." A new song I didn't hear, unfortunately, was Estelle's "American Boy," featuring Kanye West. Mozart, it's not, and I love it!

Last weekend, I saw a reference to Oliver Sacks' book on music and the brain, Musicophilia. I wish I had time to read it...maybe at the end of December, between semesters.

I'm just now recalling how touched I was, driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge to Armonk last week, radio channel-surfing until I stopped at WCBS-FM; the DJ was saying, "In honor of Rosh Hashanah, we're showcasing Jewish artists, and here's 'One Fine Day' by Carole King."

What a contrast to the invisibility/inaudibility of Rosh Hashanah while we were in India last year.

Art, and Artists, as Imperative

A couple of weeks ago, a visual artist-friend showed a bunch of us a presidential-campaign-related painting she had just finished.

"It's too angry, too political, I know," she said, looking at the floor.

"No, don't apologize," said another visual artist, "That's the artist's job. It's your job [to paint social commentary if that's what you're moved to paint. Who else can comment so profoundly?]"

I'm reminded of a conversation from last night. Since non-Jewish friends were visiting from Florida, we didn't go to synagogue for Shabbat services. Instead, we ate at the new Falafel Hut on Bellevue in Upper Montclair. Over baba ghanouj and chicken kabob, I described some of the art of my friend Riva Lehrer.

"Riva does portraits of people with disabilities, illuminating their humanity," I said, and started describing the one that featured a guy in a wheelchair, holding an umbrella, with lit Chanukah candles, sticking out of the end of each umbrella-spoke. "The skill she has is phenomenal, and her art is all so utterly original, and she's an amazing writer, communicator. You could talk with her for hours and not feel that much time had passed."

How lucky I am to know someone with Riva's brain and artistic gifts. She's the friend that told me some months ago that I didn't necessarily need to be a best-selling writer, but that certainly, I was endowed with a unique voice that was no one else's and for that reason, I was entitled, and welcome, to write. All of us are...or to paint, draw, sing, play and/or write music, dance, sculpt, film-make....No one else has our voice.

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