Monday, March 30, 2020
The problem with art
During a recent pandemic I was walking through my neighborhood alleyways, trying to keep the recommended 400 feet of distance from everyone in the world other than my wife.
Can we please do this forever?
People can just be, so, I don't know, infected.
And as I was walking I smelled tar.
I had so many feelings!
I know most of the reasons why, many of them having to do with the relation of smell to memory, and to how my four-year-old love of The La Brea Tar pits in L.A. imprinted deep emotions of positive association with the smell of tar that haunts me to this day. But that's not the point!
The point is that walking in that alley and smelling tar evoked in me a rich, complex array of sentiments and sensations as profound as any response to a piece of art. Yes, a song, book, or a painting may open up my world, cause reconsideration, and a complex burgeoning of feeling to be unleashed inside of me, but if tar can do that what makes art special or valuable? Because let's face it, anything I regard seriously and deeply, a tree, a glass, a sky, the song of a bird, a scrap of trash in the road, can well up with metaphor and meaning inside me. Anyone of them, if my effort is pure enough, is capable of briefly peeling back the facade, the great facade everywhere, and revealing the terrible and wonderful face of god!
And so what then, I ask again, is the point of art over any other random thing in the Universe?
I don't know. I don't have all the answers here. I'm just trying to make you feel.