Tuesday, May 1, 2012

But is it ART?

I'm not really allowed to repeat what Laura said, but it made me laugh til I cried.

"A b**** is a female dog.  She's also a women who is crabby and won't let you be yourself."  
David Sedaris, Ardrey Auditorium  (4/27/12)

When I went to see "A Thousand Invisible Cords,"a movie about NAU Regents’ Biology Professor Tom Whitham and his work with an ecosystem community of cottonwood trees, aphids, streams,  wildlife, and other elements in nature, I wasn't thinking "This science is ART".

In the same way, when I went to see David Sedaris on Friday night, overhearing the lady next to me say "he is one SICK individual," I wasn't exactly thinking "This man's boundary-pushing stories about the foibles of humanity are LITERATURE."

Still, I'm starting to see the point of expanding my definitions of "art" and "literature." I guess I've been growing lately. 

As Dan Boone, producer and director of "A Thousand Invisible Cords" pointed out in his introduction to the film, he has always viewed art and science as the same thing.  They both take creativity to solve problems; they both use hard-earned tools of knowledge and skill to do it.

It's the same with writing.  While Sedaris may be a "sick individual", he is certainly creative.  He uses his creativity and humor to make life more pleasant, more tolerant of diversity and more accepting of different opinions.  In the instance of an annoying houseguest who was arrogantly throwing his French around, Sedaris seemed to exorcise the pain by writing about it.  (He also said that he "tries to write about people who aren't big readers.")  And as an audience member pointed out, he was always taking notes on what worked, and what didn't, fully utilizing his skills as a wordsmith, even while on-stage.  

Literature is written work considered of superior or lasting artistic merit, based on the perceived quality or value as works of art.  During the reading by Sedaris, I hit a point where I was laughing so hard, I snorted, and then started crying.  Considering that Sedaris is writing for humor, getting me to laugh that hard is probably a feather in his cap, a proof that his work has lasting merit.  (I think laughter is just as important to the understanding of the human condition as tears are, and maybe more so.)

In the same way, Tom Whitham started an experiment 30 years with cottonwood trees and the effects of aphids--and this experiment is still going!  He has shown that we are "genetically connected members of a rich community of interacting species....The world is bound together in more ways than most people thought possible" (see full article here.)  That certainly seems to be important to our understanding of the human condition.

While a lot of people can produce work that is creative, and certainly requires skill, I think that the pieces that stick with us are the ones that have meaning to our lives.  And finding out that we can relate to a different experience--that we are interconnected to all things, whether it be leaf litter or humorous ramblings by a middle-aged homosexual, I think it has value.  I think it's art.

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