CAN ONE LEARN TO LOVE THE ARTS?

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For most of my career I was involved in arts education. As a drama educator I taught children creative dramatics; I studied with several leaders in this field, and eventually I helped create a program for young people at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

Arts advocacy was a part of my life. Conferences and retreats, lobbying federal, state and national politicians for arts funding and speaking at community events about the importance of the arts was part of my life. And, I never questioned the axiom that the arts are important. On the other hand, I never felt that I really converted anyone with talk and graphs and what have you.

Experiencing and appreciating the arts is intrinsic to the human experience — man meets and examines his image. We believe that artistic impulses and creativity are intrinsic, but are they also learned behavior? Do we learn how to listen to music and drama or appreciate a fine painting, or are we just BORN THIS WAY. Nurture or a Nature?

And why is the History of the United States so full of responses to the arts that blow hot and cold — acceptance and rejection. Why is it always a hot potato, a lightning rod of public political opinion?

My life has been a circle of enlightment – obscession – advocacy and now despair for the arts in our lives. Americans are unique in their distrust of the artistic. Most claim it descends from our Puritan heritage — Nothing Frivolous! What is it for? What will it do? Participating in and creating the arts is ephemeral, non- linear,too much fun, certainly not necessary.

For years arts educators have been trying to justify the arts in a public school curiculum by trying to develop and measure the contributions of the arts for children — to quantify what one really gets out of the arts. Of course, this is VERY SUBJECTIVE.

So is there any answer to getting the great unwashed to appreciate, nay even demand the arts in their lives? No one answer, I believe, but many answers.

Children who grow up to go to the symphony tend to be kids who were taken to the symphony by their family and are also kids who learned to play an instrument
People who appreciate the plastic arts usually have some experiences of going to see art in museums and galeries and in making art as they grew up.
Actors came to drama through the written word or through experience with improv and dancers came through movement and yes improvisation.

The key is familiarity. We are more comfortable with what we know. Where we may all possess the impulse to create, the appreciation and the doing is learned behavior. It is like reading. If you were read to and taken to the library; if your children saw you read — they will likely become readers.

So then, arts education is not just k-12; it is multi-generational. It does require an open mind and the ability to understand divergent thinking, but then shouldn’t all education require this?

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The arts are where man meets his image and contemplates his place in the universe. The arts bring us joy and reflection and greatly enhance the quality of life. Oh, if only we could all get to this place! I despair, but then I see a play or hear a piece of music and my heart is lifted and I have hope.

I Have Never Been Invisible and I Don’t want to start NOW.

Ok, you already know, I turned 70 this year and I’m trying to assess this situation.  So, I frequent some of the “senior” sites that discuss  “topics of interest” for my age group.  GAG!  The trouble with our demographics today is that there is a desire, nay an obsession, to pigeonhole everyone.  I even ran across a survey trying to find the appropriate word for old people.  Do we want to be seniors?   Seasoned?  Mature?  Trouble is, we  are all individuals?

When we say 70 is the new 50, what do we mean?  According to who? Whom?  I guess the marketers and advertising executives just have to know how to sell to every age group.  And I guess target marketing has some validity.  I don’t get a lot of ads for hip hop music, although I would love to get tickets for Hamilton in NYC (who wouldn’t?).  My clothing choices are usually “appropriate”, but I do drop in at Urban Outfitters and Forever 21.  It is fun to change it up; it keeps me alive.

I accept that there are some things that are generally applicable to a women in my age group.  But what is all this crap about getting to be over 70 and being invisible — and therefore being able to say and do what you want to.  Really?  Have ALL women baby boomers been holding back and being “good girls” all their lives?

People who know me will be smiling knowingly right now.   I know they won’t believe it when I say that until somewhat recently I didn’t have a view of myself as being particularly outspoken.  Ok, ok, somewhat.

An old high school friend said “I remember that you would not take any crap from any boys and told them what you thought.”  I guess I did; I guess I do.

Wherever it comes from, I have never been able to hold my tongue.  I ALWAYS have an opinion and I really need to express it.  This has gotten me into trouble and prevented me from reaching higher echelons in my work.  I had/have a strong sense of myself and I believe that I can and will get things done.  Where this comes from, I don’t know.

But I do know that my mother always cautioned me to be nicer – especially to boys – if I wanted to be popular.  I’ve always gotten this feedback about pushing too hard and knowing that I was/am right.

So, to the older women who now feel empowered to say what they think, I say, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG!  Indeed, all women need to ask why they defer and don’t rock the boat.  It is your boat too.  It is your life and your body and you need to truly own it.

This is feminism.  Accept no substitutes.  Be yourself.  You will attract others like yourself.

Lately I have been visited by a number of “old” friends, people I went to college with or worked with eons ago.  And my partner has commented ,” Your friends talk almost as much as you!”  Yes my friends tend to be mouthy broads and proud of it.

The Considered Life

WHAT RETIREMENT SHOULD BE ABOUT

Life is about doing things. We are all so very busy. I remember as a single mother trying to get my two kids to two different sports practices at the same time — the car pools and the snacks in the car.

And work/family/home balance always loomed over me. Was I doing enough at work? Was I showing up enough for the kids? Was the house neglected, dinner at the table? Come on!

Ok, everyone knows the drill. I’m an organized person and on some level I relished trying to keep all the balls in the air. Indeed, it is a badge of honor to be busy in today’s society.

ergo – if you aren’t busy do you have any worth? If you aren’t solving problems in the workplace and at home are you contributing? If you aren’t contributing, what are you doing?

Blogs regularly admonish how to keep busy in retirement. How to find volunteer jobs. I think we all may be missing something.

where I believe that the human spirit needs goals and hope for the future, I do not believe that work and busy work should be the answer – especially in retirement.

SO maybe this is Mindfulness for the retiree. The considered and reflected life. Perhaps there is no Jesus to meet you at the Pearly Gates and say “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”, but can one validate oneself?

Thinking is a greatly underrated skill in our society. Just thinking Not brainstorming, not working on a team project, not devising a plan. Just thinking. And in our 20s and 30s and 40s and even 50s we had so little time for thinking. It was all about moving, going, getting and spending.

Now I have time to think. To muse. To read something and think about it.

If I could find anyone interested, I now have time to talk about ideas and what life means and has meant to me. I don’t have to concentrate on logistics all the time.

And our technology – perhaps contrary to public opinion – can assist in this meaningful pursuit of reflection. At one’s fingertips are all the great thoughts by all the great thinkers thru time.
USE MR. GOOGLE for more than shopping. USE FACEBOOK to really connect with old friends instead of looking at stupid videos and sharing pithy but meaningless catch phrases.

Here are some of the questions I believe we should consider in our golden years.

We read to help us understand the human condition and, by extension ourselves.
We go to movies, plays, concerts, museums to help us understand the human condition, ourselves and the nature of art, creativity and expression.

We make things – create art, crafts, gardens, food to help us learn about ourselves and the world around us.

In our Golden Years we should have more time to explore these things. To take time to read and re-read to discuss and understand.

Don’t rush thru life doing what you have to. Or at least when you no longer have to rush to make a living – don’t just think in terms of work. Think about enlightenment.

Social media may be antithetical to help us know each other better. People seem very careful to not actually talk about anything that is important. Oh sure you have a few right or left wing people who post all sorts of political information that let you know what side of the aisle they are on. and pics of vacations and family do give a bit of information about what people are doing.

but rarely do people talk about themselves. I would love to know what my old high school friends have really been doing. I would like to share seminal experiences. Social media is probably not the place- SUPERFICIAL TO A FAULT1