Art Attack #3

Hmm, time to pull this rambling argument with myself together! Ah, time

The poet Andrew Marvell, frustrated by his lover’s reticence to commit herself, gently reminds her they’re not getting any younger:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime …

… But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

And the elephant in the room is … well, here’s a selection of euphemisms from those clever Monty Python chaps:

Image result for dead parrot sketch

Owner: Well, he’s…he’s, ah…probably pining for the fjords.

Mr. Praline: PININ’ for the FJORDS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that? … ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

The English language probably has more ways to avoid this subject than Eskimos have words to describe snow. Which subject, you ask? Well, er … look, I’m not being coy, it’s just … you see, moving from funny to serious ain’t easy! Right, deep breath, dive in …

Image result for blackadder goes forth

Laughter can be nervous. There is such a thing as gallows humour. Blackadder Goes Forth found plenty in trench warfare to laugh at but the final moments were filmed with admirable solemnity, ending in a memorable still frame which dissolved to a field of poppies:

Image result for blackadder goes forth ending

Image result for blackadder goes forth ending

Philip Larkin puts it as well as anybody:

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

from ‘MCMXIV’

Time heals, they say, but public feeling about World War One seemed to intensify in recent years. Was this because Old Soldiers approaching their natural end of life at last broke traumatised silence to speak of less fortunate comrades? Perhaps it was the sheer number of WW1 centenary events after 2014, its battles engraved on monuments and hearts in so many nations – the likes of Mons, Liege, Ypres, Anzac Cove, Suvla Bay, Verdun, Jutland, the Somme, Arras, Passchendaele.

Premature death is always shocking – a loss of human potential which prompts urgent political questions about the denial of entitlements. What, we wonder, might those young people have contributed to the common good? And where, we ask, is the machinery to stop such pointless suffering?

Death on such an industrial scale is a shared agony and betrayal and shame that creates a public demand for a community wider than the flag-waving armed camps that march to war. The cry goes up: Never again! And how often we hear of friends and families campaigning to protect the safety of strangers in the name of a loved one who has suffered an avoidable death … Never again! 

No one should live in vain. All life has value. And I would suggest that all death has meaning because without it life would have no shape, sweetness or intensity. Would each day be so precious if we could live for ever? Each day we hold others in our hearts who are not with us, dead or alive, and so become temples of eternity. We honour the living and the dead, even those ancestors we never knew, because they have fitted us for this moment.

Realising this can be an epiphany leading to a kind of apotheosis. The words may be religious but the ideas aren’t, though they are sacred to me. As Nietzsche said: Be faithful to the earth. I also take heart from novelist Lawrence Sterne:

When we are – death is not; and when death is – we are not.

Live in the moment and last forever. Growing older, I find, most desires fade away but one burns brighter: the desire for remembrance. I would like people to have a good time at my funeral, remembering they are still alive. And I would like to produce something which has a value to others after I am gone. Re-enchant the world, maybe, or at least give somebody a good laugh.

Ha, just remembered my previous post promised to answer this question: if nature is broken, can art mend it? Nah, is the obvious answer, but DH Lawrence offers a crumb of hope:

It is the way our sympathy flows and recoils that really determines our lives. And here lies the vast importance of the novel, properly handled. It can inform and lead into new places the flow of our sympathetic consciousness, and it can lead our sympathy away in recoil from things gone dead.

Include poems, songs, plays, films and other art forms and you could get something going to win hearts and minds for the good fight. If nature is broken, only we can fix it – if we’ve a mind to give up shopping and go living instead. Could the aesthetic rewards of friendly art wean us, perhaps, from the addictions of lonely consumption? Art is story and stories make good signposts.

Art, like love, can even transcend death. This is because art, like love, can only exist between us – a sacred unity, the two that is not two. I find paradox miraculous because it breaks down oppositions. Without Contraries there is no progress. It takes a writer and a reader to create meaning. Anger can become Compassion. Death and Life are one.

Image result for paradox

 

‘Everything is the opposite of what it appears to be.’    – John Lennon

 

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38 thoughts on “Art Attack #3

    1. Thank you and your comment is so true. Why do we keep obsessing about our physical side – is it consumerism perhaps? Have just added a bit about art versus shopping, in case you missed it …

  1. I do wonder about those people freezing themselves in the hopes of being revived.
    A legacy of some sort is definitely in the back of my mind. Don’t have one yet. But perhaps we would be better served just letting those that come after have their own times and places without worrying that we remain a part of their lives. (K)

    1. Cryogenics … ugh! … the last refuge of the self-obsessed, though I can sympathise with those who become terminally ill and feel they haven’t completed things. This is why I feel we should embrace death as a positive while of course doing what we can to prolong life … including avoiding war! Being remembered by my loved ones is enough, of course, but I like the idea of producing something more for the future because it keeps me busy in the here-and-now …

  2. I went back to re-read. Great post and I see the changes. I think I’m reaching the point where detachment is becoming relevant. Not there yet, but you know, for years my yardstick was if I can return from the Mall empty handed;) and now I can will that. Stories and creations can outlive/ be left behind, but I wonder if it is necessary on the persons part. Or, is it fun for the family and friends to run into objects and memories- like a treasure hunt. And, me let go, when I let go 😀 Ha haa!

    1. Yes, for me also it remains an ideal rather than an achieved state. We’re all backsliders, that’s half our charm and binds us to one another because we’re none of us perfect but we admire the effort in others. I love your treasure hunt image. Franz Kafka wanted his unpublished novels burnt after his death and his friend Joseph Brodsky disobeyed, fortunately for the rest of us! But a good life is enough of a legacy for most of us …

      1. Thank you🤗 I agree completely about legacy, perfection, and admiration. There’s a tiny reference related to this tendency is in my decade old unpublished baby targeting summer (this year 😁) Backsliding … What a FUN image!
        Joseph was a good friend and not. Besides, people today might want to make treasure out off a find😉

        1. Interesting thoughts. Yes, alas, these days everything is about money. Not quite clear what you meant by ‘my decade old unpublished baby targeting summer (this year)’ … could you explain, please?

          1. Sorry, was trying to be brief and cool!!! You can see I’m not a multi-tasker:D Translating- a book Ive been writing for ten years; targeting to publish by summer, hopefully.

    1. I think you’ve nailed it, Christine – no pun intended! Death gives us an opportunity to celebrate life, as well as a particular life, which helps us mourn properly. As my mother said just before she died, ‘Be sad but not unhappy.’

    1. Glad you liked it, Steve. Your poem is really good – I like the use of a refrain and the tone isn’t unlike some of Lennon’s stuff – interesting too that you completed something you started when much younger. Will have to go through some of my old boxes …

  3. A fascinating kaleidoscope of ideas and references that lead, inevitably, to your paradox. Yes, the writer AND the reader…that’s what I think too.
    And you’ve used the Python Parrot, love that.

    1. Good to know it struck a chord with you, Cathum! I’m getting very fed up with extreme individualism, which I think is at the root of our objectification of others, so the shared thing is my current bag. Easiest thing to share is a smile … 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading and your response, Gordon, very gratifying as I was tackling big ideas close to my heart and trying for the first time to bring them together in a sort of religious secularism – if that makes any sense!

  4. A fitting end to your series, Dave. It brought to mind Longfellow’s “Song of Life” for me. “Tell me not in mournful numbers life is but an empty dream.” That the end is coming should be all the reason we need to live each moment to the fullest. Thanks for your wise words. –Curt

    1. Not heard that line before, Curt, it beautifully skewers the traditional idea that life is just a green room experience before we ‘go on stage’. This is not, to continue the metaphor, a dress rehearsal … thanks for your input.

  5. I’m going got come back with something more ( hopefully, anyway) intelligent soon, but for now i want to say that last episode of Blackadder is such a tearjerker. It was such a funny series, and that 4th one was no exception. But it was really clever, sensitive, and respectful to end it the way they did. No matter how many funny spins you can put on anything, war is ultimately such a tragic waste of life. I agree; no one should live in vain. It angers me that lives are still treated as having secondary importance to power ( ie, the almighty $.), and that the only value ever placed on anything – or anyone- is one of a material nature. People are valued in terms of what can be squeezed out of them/ how they can be exploited in the pursuit of power. Just look at the way we treat famous people ( they HAVE something therefore they ARE something- even if they’re supremely sefish, arrogant, cruel, greedy, selfish, etc ) compared with homeless people (they HAVE nothing, therefore they ARE nothing, despite the fact they may be intelligent, resilient, compassionate, ineresting, etc.). We value people on the basis of what they can do for us. It’s vile.
    I dunno. I’m really tired, and i’m just ranting. It sounds stupid. Will come back.

    1. No rant, my friend, but the sort of passionate defence of real values that I believe we hear far too little of … there’s something about comedy that opens up hearts and allows more poignant things to be heard and taken on board. All the good sitcoms have a depth of characterisation that allows for serious moments. The worry is that people have no status in society other than what money can buy them … our malls are the new temples, it seems. Not arguing for a return to supernaturalism, though, just to a sense of wonder that is content with simple things. I meant to say that death adds to life a precious almost poignant sweetness that gives it a special value. Thanks for your response.

      1. Yep, agree on all these points.

        Indeed, the best comedies are the ones that say something about everyday life. I’ve always viewed comedy as a very clever ( and sometimes deceptively subtle) form of social commentary.

        Life is indeed precious. We only get one. This is why it bothers me so much when people ( and institutions) try to dictate to the individual what they can and cannot deem meaningful and important to them personally during their one precious life. How dare they! It makes me really angry how little freedom even supposedly free people have.

        Anyway, i won’t get started…thanks for enduring my garbled comments 😉

        1. I suppose comedy acts to subvert such pompous authoritarianism … unless it’s the so-called comedy approved by the powers-that-be to discredit and humiliate minorities. Not comedy at all, really, often accompanied by insinuation ‘What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?’

          1. Indeed….that type of pseudo comedy is always a worry. Especially when it actually gets laughs…O.o The one hopeful thing is that the good stuff actually seems to have some longevity, while the crap often fades into obscurity. That doesn’t undo the damage caused while it’s still breathing, of course, but it does set off a little spark of hope within me to see the gooduns stand the test of time.

          2. It is indeed – BM was a sexist, racist, mildly blue British ‘comedian’ of the 1970s – the kind that the more politically-correct comedy of the early 1980s was supposed to sweep away …

          3. It’s funny how he’s described as “irreverant” ( i google searched ). It’s a bit crap if people can’t tell the difference between irreverance and pure disrespect :/ Anyhoo. At least i know not to waste my time watching any footage of him!

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