Photos by Daniel Rogers | Greece
“We’ve marginalized art [in our society].” George Saunders said during his visit to Colorado Springs. Yes, we have.
After Saunders talked about the vagaries of the writing life, including editing down a sentence until it eventually disappears; and shared some about his own journey creating with words and finding himself as a writer, he talked about the “assigned” topic (by the Converge Lecture Series) of “moral beauty.”
This concept is meant to (and rather successfully does, after it sinks in and one is able absorb it) encapsulate the responsibility we have as people to create. To make our world better. To build, instead of destroy.
We’ve overlooked the power of art, and misunderstood the value of it. This has resulted in dire consequences. Because of discarding the unifying, clarifying and constructive functions of art, we’ve achieved a level of rage and antagonism among one another that is unprecedented.
We malign and see as unimportant and without value, artistic pursuits. This is evidenced by the question we are repeatedly asked when people hear of our son’s college major: “What do you do with an English Literature degree?”
Have you heard of books? Have you heard of something called critical thinking? Without these tools for a civil society, we spiral into a vortex of materialism, chaos and yes, rage. But with these pages — pages full of thoughts, observations, poetry, stories – these pages, created with intense and prolonged effort; created with a mysterious yielding to the “luminous other;” that Saunders talked about; created with a humility and a respect for readers that prohibits condescension – WITH THESE tools and weapons in our armory, we can battle apathy, hatred and the black hole of selfishness.
We need to get to a place where we realize the value of artistic professions, not seeing them as “just” hobbies (though artistic hobbies are valuable too) or relegating them to the margins. When we see and value them as work, as important work — equally as important as, say, plumber, teacher, construction worker — then we can generate more beauty with words, with paint, with clay, with cameras and even in micro conversations with each other.
This beauty will heal us.