Rest, Thanksgiving, and Art for Art’s Sake
A bit of a gap again since my last entry, but better late than never.
Peace at last! It’s almost the end of the fall semester of my Junior year, and Thanksgiving Break is finally here. It is a special holiday for me, not so much because of the “founding fathers” but rather because it is a reminder in my personal life of all the blessing I have received. And this Thanksgiving was no exception: having gone through arduous auditions, callbacks, and a 2+ week waiting process for the final cast lists, I have managed to be cast in two of my university’s departmental shows, which is a great honor indeed. I have two great parts in two great casts, and it really is a wonderful feeling to be rewarded with results like this in a business that constantly dismisses the talent of an individual.
And now I can enjoy this five day break, back at home with my family, and with a reassuring blanket of certainty keeping my ambitions safe (at least for the next few months, then who knows WHAT!) Actors live very transient lives, I realize. As a student, I am only just beginning to grasp how fleeting the nature of my work will be. Shows hold auditions, are cast, produced, and closed within the blink of an eye, and consequently it can be tempting for me to dismiss the lasting impact of my craft. But I suppose memories and emotions last longer than the final curtain, even if they are less tangible measures of enduring value.
For me Thanksgiving is a time for rest, but it is also a time for contemplation, as I look back on what I have in my life and where I plan to go from here. Sometimes I question my contribution to society – what good is acting for the world? One of my professors, thankfully, helped me to reexamine this notion. He talked to us in class about how we should never treat our chosen field in the arts and humanities as somehow inferior to the sciences or social sciences.
Yes, the world will always need scientists, doctors, engineers – creators of the practical. But to create art is of no less importance. Science should not be compared to art, and vice versa, because they are incomparable. After Yo-Yo Ma finishes a concert, one would not ask him ‘What’s the point of playing the cello?’ A better question might be, ‘What compels you to play the cello?’ or ‘When you play the cello, what do you feel?’ Art is not and should not be a product that can be bought and sold like a plastic toy off a production line. It does not necessarily feed us, clothe us, assist us in the practicalities of day to day life, or answer the deeper problems of our existence. But for anyone who has seen a beautiful painting, heard a moving composition, or experienced the enchantment of a sublime piece of literature or theatre, they know that art is an essential part of being human and enjoying our lives to the fullest.
And so I realize that art for art’s sake is more important that art for the sake of practicality. Art can be practical, but it must exist for itself first. We create art because we are inspired and we go to art because it inspires creation within us. Art can give us solutions, but more often I think it raises questions. And I am a firm believer that it is just as important to be able to send a man to the moon as it is to inspire the hearts of men and women through the mystery of art.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! May it be Filled with Rest, Peace, and Good Art!