2.09.2006

Cherishing the Stillness...

St. Thomas Aquinas said regarding art and beauty that it should create a "stillness", or a freezing of our consciousness.

I wonder what he would think of people like porn stars and the executives on Madison Avenue who believe they are pedalling their own forms of art and beauty. Not to say that porn and commercials can't be pleasant to look at (feel free to disagree with this), but certainly these things are not designed to create a "stillness". In fact, they are supposed to do the exact opposite- to get us moving. Either to the store. Or to the bedside table to grab the Astroglide. Or whatever brand works best for you.

"So what's your fuckin point, Allie??" Yes, I can tell you are thinking this.

I suppose it's a mere reflection on how impatient we have become as a society. We rush. Everywhere. We lack patience. Hell, I know I do, and there is no disputing this. Last night in film class we began watching a French film called Diva (an in-depth critique is still pending, although I will say the film is very... French- make of that what you will), and was struck by how the hero of the film was so awe-inspired by the beauty of this opera singer that he wept. I have experienced the same thing- being moved to tears by something so beautiful that it makes me grateful for being a human being with a brain capable of processing such stimuli on a higher level.

I live in the capitol city of Washington, and I am lucky enough to get daily views of a very beautiful, ornate capitol building, a perfect symbol of what great works we as human beings are capable of doing, and even though I've seen this structure enough to not feel as deeply moved by it, when I come around the bend on I-5 and I see that perfectly lit dome peeking out from the lush evergreens and the tranquil lake surrounding it all, I feel that "stillness" Aquinas spoke of, and I feel lucky to live here.

And then I turn on the TV for my kids and see the bombardment of colors, characters, and music that force them to jump up and down on the floor screaming "Can we buy that, Mommy! I want to get that thing, Mommy!!" No stillness there. And then I wonder if I would see their eyes glazing over during a trip to an art museum and think: "Great job, Allison, you're sending two more victims of the idiot box out into the world. Proctor and Gamble thanks you!"

We human beings are capable of so much mediocrity. So much destruction. Yet, so much beauty. But I'm thankful for it all, for if it were not for the first two, how could we ever come to appreciate the last?

4 comments:

  1. Yeah, the whole good-evil beauty-ugliness black-white problem - without one, you can't have the other. And we want the good stuff, so we have to find a way to deal with the "other"... I have this dilemma about my kids and the TV and the values we are tacitly teaching them, too.

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  2. A little off topic ... but not really.

    I think you know already that I don't watch much "TV" (not to be confused with renting movies.) That was my babysitter as a child. And I was one of those people who used to turn it on automatically when I got home, for the noise as I went about doing things. And exh and I used to spend a lot of time curled up watching it. But then after dd was born, and working full time, I stopped. It was partly a time issue. And a quality time (with dd) issue. I didn't want what little time we had together spent in front of it. Thankfully she's not that interested in it, so it's not a big deal.

    But that's not what I came on to post.

    Anyhooo... it wasn't just the "time" and "quality time" thing ... but a story my dad told me that really resonated.

    In his very small, very poor mountain village your neighbours were everything. They were your social life, they were family, they sometimes were the difference between life and death.

    The farming community they lived in was very small but very dynamic, they all hung out together all the time.

    During the war (WWII) only the village priest had a radio, so they ALL gathered at his house to listen to it, the war stuff.

    One day somebody got a TV. They all used to gather at that person's house to watch it. And then somebody else got one, until eventually most of the homes had them (my dad's didn't).

    Nobody gathered together that much anymore. He said that in the evenings it became so empty that all you could hear were the frogs and crickets, and the dirt roads were empty and dark. When you passed a house all you could see was the flickering of the light from the TV inside.

    As everybody sat in their own home, staring at their boxes.

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  3. P.S. I've seen Diva. And agree. It's very ... French...

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  4. Dusanka- How sad about the village and how people stopped coming to listen to the radio! We are definitely self-imposed prisoners in our own houses these days, it seems... Also, yes while Diva is incredibly French, I actually think it's quite brilliant. I look forward to the conclusion. :)

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