September 2, 2007

Examined Life

There's a lot of talk about email these days, on the Web and everywhere else. The trigger seems to have been Merlin Mann's sermon at Google on “Inbox Zero", a topic on which he's written before and that is also dear to Mark Hurst and others.

The point is that we want to consider and examine things we do all the time. The unconsidered life, etc. Good stuff.

When I was small, we used to go to lots of art museums and galleries. This was OK, but I confess I never really saw the point. Science museums, sure: everyone needs to know this stuff, and there are lots of buttons to press. Natural history: ok. You need to know about lions and tigers and bears, not to mention mummies and stuff. You might run into one someday. But what exactly is the point of learning this much about painting?

Then, at DuPont, I started to lean a bit about drawing. And, later, a touch of watercolor. Suddenly, it made more sense to look at pictures, because these people were struggling with the sort of problems that kept puzzling me. Not just the abstruse, deep problems, either: Renoir, for example, has trouble with anatomy. And everyone in watercolors has trouble with blue-green, because there just isn't a transparent cerulean blue. And so, galleries and museums are a big conversation: how can we do this?

A lot of contemporary art is a conversation that still flies over my head. I spent an afternoon at Mass MOCA last week, and half the time I just didn't have a clue.

That's the point of the email conversation. We all do this. We all learned our habits and customs somehow. Can we do it all, better?

Extra credit: what is the purpose of music? Should we make space in our work for new music? For new serious music? For popular music, even if it's not yet popular with us?