For the Arts

Day Seven: Gratitude for the Arts

I suppose it is not terribly surprising that an artist, writer, and career art teacher would be grateful for something that has been such a vibrant force throughout her life, but I realized that I’ve heard very little being said, recently, about the value of the arts in our lives.

I think we’re missing something important, by such an omission. There’s a quote from C. S. Lewis that I’ve seen popping up with fair frequency: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art . . . . It has no survival value; rather, it is one of those things that give value to survival.” For me, this quote encapsulates the problem I see.

I believe it is being circulated because people think it affirms the value of art. But to my mind, it understates and diminishes the value, not only of art, but also of friendship and philosophy.

I may decide I need to get into the particulars of this argument someday, but here’s the short version:

Lewis’s unrecognized devaluation of of friendship, philosophy, and art comes from a narrowed definition of these concepts:

  • The preposterous notion that any man could be an island.
  • The idea that philosophy is only conceived by the most abstract (or famous) of introspective thinkers.
  • An elitist assumption that true art is only created by those operating as high-level professionals in creative fields.

Unfortunately, this understanding is far too widely shared, to the detriment of us all. I think this is part of the reason why the arts have been under siege for years, in this country.

Even as we repeatedly discover that a vibrant arts community is as important a business asset to a city or region as excellent public schools, it remains a dual lesson that painfully few in KansasMissouri (where cuts have impacted all aspects of education, and arts often are cut first), or our national government seem to have mastered.
Certainly the importance–and the powerful positive results–of teaching the arts in schools has been amply documented.

But the power of the arts to continue connecting people with their true selves doesn’t stop when they graduate. The arts are a lifelong enricher of souls, giving depth to the lives of all who are willing to embrace them.

Yet the arts continue to be considered as “frills,” unnecessary, or “a side issue,” by all too many people. If art is understood only to be a grace-note in life, it can safely be ignored (and need not be publicly funded). I think Winston Churchill had a better grasp of the issue.

We live in a bitterly divided society, here in the US. All too often, we seem exclusively focused on the ugly, the evil, and the terrifying. Granted, the tenor of politics, the upward spiral of natural disaster occurrences, and the number of mass shootingsterror incidents, and other violence we’ve seen in the daily headlines recently seem designed to drag us down. In such an environment, it’s easier for nationalist and authoritarian movements to gain a footing.

I think the rise in nationalism and authoritarianism in recent decades is largely to blame for the trivialization of the arts (noted above as “part of the reason”) that has come to characterize many funding battles in the public sector.

Authoritarians have a natural distrust of free-thinkers (who are everywhere in the arts), of empirical research, which is less amenable to ideology than other approaches (hence the all-too-common contemporary negative views of science), and of critical thinking in general (because it too readily pokes holes in authoritarian dogma).

The arts lift us beyond our immediate struggles. They can show us other points of view, new ways of thinking and seeing. They give us a rich context for meaning-making and help us build more complete understandings.

The arts, in their best expressions, build bridges of understanding rather than walls of division. They heal us and grant us a wider vision, so we can see–and therefore seek–a better way forward. That’s the most important reason of all, why I give thanks for the arts.

IMAGES: The “Seven Days of Gratitude” design is my own creation, for well or ill. So is the design for the Eve L. Ewing quote, for which I gratefully acknowledge the BBCWikipedia, and Reuters, via the BBC, which provided the vintage photos. If for some reason you’d like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. Many thanks to AZ Quotes for the C.S. Lewis quote image; to The Artful Parent, for the Ananda Coomaraswamy quote image; to The Keep Forever Box, for the Sydney Gurewitz Clemens quote; to Jen Bissou’s Pinterest page for the Churchill quote; and to Brainy Quote, for both the Picasso and Degas quote images. I am deeply appreciative to all.

For my Family

Day Two: Grateful for my Family

We humans are shaped and often defined by our families, for both well and ill. We can inherit everything–and anything–from our forebears, including any or all of those listed below:

  • Genetic vulnerabilities or resistances to diseases
  • Family recipes (be they sublime–or dreadful!)
  • Attitudes (political or otherwise)
  • Catchphrases (do you ever hear your parent’s or grandparent’s voice coming out of your own mouth?)
  • Childrearing practices (boy, can that be a two-edged sword! For you, and your kids!)
  • Knicknacks (from worthless dust-collectors to priceless heirlooms)
  • Traditions, (for holidays, special occasions, or anything at all)
  • Wealth (along with its entanglements.)
  • Poverty (different kinds of entanglements, but at least as many, here)
  • Or, all too often, dysfunctional patterns that over time can take on the likeness of a “generational curse,” if we’re not careful, thoughtful, and brutally self-reflective.

Blessings? Curses? A little of both? Yes. Families can be all of those. They even can be all of those at the same time.

If you regard your family-of-origin with little short of horror, I get it.

If you see them mainly as a pain in the patoot but you love them anyway, you’re in good company throughout most of the planet.

If you never knew them, I offer my deepest condolences–and pray you may be empowered to surround yourself with the kind of friends who love you like the most positive kind of brothers and sisters.

But if you’re like me, you not only remember your siblings and parents–you still have at least some of them around to deal with, care about, and/or worry about.

A bit rude, maybe, but more accurate than not.

In my case I have a house I have almost reclaimed from the hoarder-esque piles of inherited household goods after some eight estate liquidations since 2005, a recently-turned-93-year-old father, a Beloved who lost his 89-year-old mother this year, and two adult children with a variety of strengths and challenges–plus assorted canine, feline, piscine, and even Eublepharine household members with challenges of their own.

They are, in many ways, the reason I get up in the morning (well, them and the novel!), the delight of my life, and also the sand in my gears. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and I know I’m incredibly lucky to have them. Every single one I’ve lost, I’ve lost under extreme protest. Every single one I haven’t yet lost, I cherish with all my heart.

IMAGES:  The “Seven Days of Gratitude” design is my own creation, for well or ill. If for some reason You’d like to use it, please feel free to do so, but I request attribution and a link back to this post. Many thanks to Boardofwisdom, via Your English Library’s summary page about About a Boyfor the quotation image from Manwadu Ndife, and to iFunny for the graphic about family being like underpants.

 

What is the origin of joy?

The Artdog Quote of the Week 

The road to happiness is deceptively simple, it seems.

IMAGE: Many thanks to QuotesGram for this quote.

The daily thank-yous

The Artdog Quote of the Week

One’s daily thanks are important.

IMAGE: Many thanks for this image to QuotesGram.

The ebb and flow of the tide

Artdog Quote of the Week 

Get ready for a change in the tides . . .

IMAGE: Many thanks to QuotesGram for this image.

3 creative ways to thank a veteran

Artdog Images of Interest, “with interest”

Last Tuesday, I, and many of my fellow Americans voted. Whether you like the outcome or not, the fact that we have the right to vote is largely because that right has been defended again and again through the years, most especially by the men and women of the United States Armed Services. In honor of them on Veterans Day, I’ve prepared a little photo tribute.

In between the pictures, I suggest three categories of practical ways that you can thank a vet or active service member–and do it in a way that makes a REAL difference. Have you thanked a vet today?

1. Say thank-you with a card, letter, or gift. If you have a deployed military service member in your circle of friends or family, here are some tips from Operation We are Here, on writing to them. Another good source of ideas for writing to either active-duty or hospitalized veterans is the National Remember Our Troops Campaign (NROTC). Or get involved in service projects such as knitting or crocheting cold-weather comforts for active-duty personnel or helping to fill care packages. There are countless opportunities, from local, grassroots efforts to national organizations. All it takes is a willing heart.

2. Prepare yourself ahead of time so you’ll have a better idea how to talk with military family members. Active-duty service members’ parents, spouses, and children all face unique challenges and encounter all too many unhelpful or ignorant reactions from people who have no idea what they’re dealing with. Even more so do the families of injured veterans and  the families of the fallenDon’t add to their struggle–educate yourself! 

3. Since today is Veterans Day, buy a Buddy Poppy. Buy a bunch of them! The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) uses the proceeds to help disabled, needy and/or homeless veterans all year. There are many other organizations created to help, too. Go to Charlity Navigator to find the best services for injured or disabled veterans. There also are many ways to help homeless veterans. Find  programs to help at-risk veterans through the VA, too.

It’s one thing to express gratitude on a holiday such as this one–but it’s something better and more to “be there” for the veterans who put themselves on the line for us. Let’s be there for real.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Aaron Huss’s “Places to Visit” Pinterest Page for the Veteran’s Day graphic at the top. Thanks very much to KaytiDesigns and PrintFirm via Pinterest, for the “Thank You” montage with the flag and the soldiers, and to the Republican Party of Kentucky for the Thank You photo of the assembled soldiers in the red auditorium. Thank you, Mulpix on Instagram, for the “Thank You” with the emblems of the service branches. And finally, thank you for the Veterans Day poppies with Ronald Reagan quote, from the “Through the Garden Gate” blog. And a heartfelt THANK YOU also to all the brave and amazing people (and their families) who keep this nation safe and free.

Change the world?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

Expectations are ours to choose. Sometimes that’s harder to do than other times.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Quotes Gram and the “Quotes/Wisdom” Pinterest page of Danica M. for this image.