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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

[ from a. addair who is listening to The Civil Wars (Barton Hollow) ]

I was listening to NPR the other day and heard David Orr, author of Beautiful and Pointless : A Guide to Modern Poetry consider the role that poetry plays in the wider world.

Here’s an excerpt from the NPR article:

“The final chapter of Orr’s book asks what might be the most important question: Why bother? Why read poetry at all?

And Orr has a rather surprising answer: ‘I don’t know that people ought to bother. I think that poetry is one of those choices you make in life that’s … it’s not really susceptible to reasoning or arguments…I think a better way to approach the question ‘why bother?’ is not to answer it — but rather just to say that if you do bother, it can be worthwhile.'”

His answer first shocked me and then I began to fancy it as delightfully simple and refreshing…and applicable to painting.

In his book, Orr writes, “For decades now, one of the poetry world’s favorite activities has been bemoaning its lost audience, then bemoaning the bemoaning, then bemoaning that bemoaning, until finally everyone shrugs and applies for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.”

hanging is only scary when you're small

1. I heart David Orr, isn’t he funny?  2.This reminds me of myself, bemoaning on a few too many occasions.

Recently I lead a discussion on the role of arts in spirituality.  I think a large part of my motivation to participate in the class was because I wanted to help promote the gospel that says art (particularly visual art and even more narrowly painting) is vital to life.

Embarrassingly flimsy now that I think about it.

I’m not downright reversing the way I feel about art’s potential, but I am lightening up and laying off the zeal.

Probably, one can go through an entire lifetime without looking much or caring about painting and live a satisfying and whole existence.   Fair enough.  I can wear a black beret and not-too-tight-and-in-a-wad panties at the same time.

I think much of my intensity toward convincing others of  the value of art comes from a bruised starving-artist ego. It desperately seeks validation: I’m not wasting my time right?  Spending my whole day concerned about the quality of a line or how a shade of red responds to fuchsia is not frivolous right?  Somebody, please confirm me;  but if you won’t you just don’t get it. Snub. Snuffle. Bemoan.

hanging is only scary when you're small (detail)

Because the work of artists is often undermined, when we talk about the merit of what we do, it can get rather bristly.

I do believe it is incredibly essential for an artist to pursue the making of art because, at least for me, I delight in it and have come to depend upon it for processing and appreciating life.  And I think it has the capacity to do these things for/in the viewer as well.  Making and seeing art is important; it is a piece of the whole, but not supreme.

I’ve also been thinking about what Doug Banister from All Souls said about needing both structural and spiritual components for renewal.

So much of my recent journey has been about relaxing into what is already there and this moment is no exception.  It is such a relief to rest in the realization that I possess only a little piece of a great big whole.  There is more than one component for renewal and I can only give what I have, which is an important part, but not the every-part.

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