Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oh, to be a Work of Art

I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It's only life after all

Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I'm crawling on your shores

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine

--Emily Saliers

I listen to the radio all the time these days on my daily commutes to and from school and home and work and rehearsal. And late at night when I was secluded out in Nowheresville during my house-sitting stint, when I had nothing but homework and the Internet to keep me company, I tuned into the local variety station. During those late late hours, stretching sometimes ‘til 2 in the morning, I discovered the radio show Delilah. The title deejay serves as a psychologist/mentor/mother-figure/marriage counselor/role model/friend to her listeners, who call in with requests for love songs and anecdotes about their children and uncles and estranged boyfriends. Across the country, working overtime in cramped cubicles or driving through winding roads with a lover or tucking children into bed after a bath and a story, we all heard these personal stories and empathized. Then Delilah would select a tune and the waves would fill the room and I’d snuggle down deeper into bed. Music is a powerful thing. This tune by the Indigo Girls is a current favorite, both for its melodic qualities and overall catchiness and for its powerfully compelling lyrics.

And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free

I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.
To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
And I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before
And I went in seeking clarity

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
Yeah we go to the doctor, we go to the mountains
We look to the children, we drink from the fountains
Yeah we go to the Bible, we go through the workout
We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine

“Yeah,” I say in my best British accent à la Rupert Grint, “I’ve got to get my priorities straightened.”

And that’s what it comes down to. What we learn from our parents or from professors doesn’t always line up with what we learn in the School of Hard Knocks. The idealism of philosophy and religion doesn’t exactly jive with Real Life. So what do we choose? Do we toss aside our quest for a “definitive” as unattainable foolishness, and go on about our merry ways, forgetting the enthusiasm with which we once embraced our ideals? Do we, instead, live completely impractically, refusing to sacrifice our beliefs, even at the sake of happiness and worldly success?

When we’re young we set our hearts upon some beautiful idea
Maybe something from a holy book or French philosophia
Upon the thoughts of better men than us we swear by and decree a
Perfect way to end the war, a perfect way to be
A work of art. Oh, to be a work of art

But in time a thought comes tugging on the sleeve edge of our minds
Perhaps no perfect way exists at all, just many different kinds
Oh, but if it’s just a thing of taste then everything unwinds
For without an absolute how can the absolute define
A work of art? Oh, to be a work of art

--The Guggenheim Grotto

Or, instead, do we strive for what is Right, doing only the best we can, looking for inspiration wherever we can find it, taking our happiness as opportunities present themselves, but never forgetting our origins and the ideas of our youths, and always searching for excellence, goodness, and the best thing we know how to do?

No matter what, we’ve got to decide for ourselves and come to terms with our decisions. Limbo is no place for the living.


secret agent woman said...

I love the Indigo Girls, love their poetry and their music.

ihateyoupetersmythe said...

Have you ever read the Socratic dialogues? You should.

Mozart said...

Parts of them--'Crito,' in particular. I've also read portions of The Republic. I intend to go back and finish both volumes....someday...