Every time I turn around, it seems these days, I see a post from Jeff Goins that’s exactly what I needed to hear in the moment. This one is perfect as I try to come up with a link for today’s post.
I don’t agree completely with his premise–it seems to me art has more than one essential function other than telling us what’s wrong with the world. Much art serves to celebrate beauty or joy or youth or love, and a celebration of beauty or joy is no less art because it doesn’t leave us uncomfortable.
But look at the celebration a different way, and it proves his point exactly. What is a celebration, after all, but an exclamation point–a reminder that for all of life’s imperfections, we still have so many reasons to smile?
And when the celebration is over, when it passes from our experience, we’re left with our imperfect lives, and a bright, beautiful, joyful exclamation point in our memory.
So art–real art, great art–reminds us of life’s imperfections, but also of hope. It offers us a way to acknowledge that life is difficult while pointing out the tools to make it better.
I’m thinking of two of my favorite pieces of art as I write this: the musical Les Miserables and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The power of both lies in the hope they leave us with: the 9th Symphony ends with a victorious explosion of sound, while Les Mis ends with a much more understated whisper that, for all life’s tragedy, it may just be worth living after all. As many times as I’ve experienced each, I can still hardly make it through either without getting choked up.
[If you haven’t experienced one or the other, I highly recommend both. Do yourself the favor of giving them your full attention: you won’t regret it.]
I think that’s the real power of art: to remind us of hope. It challenges us, it makes us uncomfortable, it reminds us that there are things profoundly wrong with the world; but it also helps us see that we have the power to make our part better.
It reminds us, if I may, of what we can accomplish if we can find the courage to step forward.
Do you have a piece of art you love? How does it make you feel?