A May 2012 episode of The Cricket and Seagull Fireside Chat featuring host Stephen Kapp Perry interviewing retired BYU professor Eric Samuelsen crystallized something for me. In the podcast, Eric discusses how excellence in human striving (in sports, in art) can lead to moments of spirituality and how we shouldn’t dismiss.
I’ve been thinking about the boundaries we draw quite a bit that last few months and from a variety of angles — literary fiction vs. genre fiction, male vs. female readings, cosplay and authenticity, LDS vs. Mormon vs. exMo fiction, film narrative vs. gaming narrative, etc. I’ve become ever more convinced of the rightness of my post Mormons and media consumption, and I highly recommend the podcast with Eric and Stephen — it contains some fantastic examples of what can happen when you avoid dismissing certain art forms or content issues as well as others experiences with art.
I have something else to add to my prior thinking on this:
On the one hand, I understand why artistic expression makes us uncomfortable. Why certain folks are scared to death of didactic-ness and others of in-appropriateness. But the longer I live and the more art I experience, the more I’m amazed by how essentially conservative (maybe meaningful would be the better word) most art is. Or rather, how it all comes back to questions of love, faith, loyalty, creativity, fidelity, charity, integrity, friendship, family, etc.
There are deep divides on how these questions are approached. These are varying beliefs on what social, political, cultural and religious structures best guide how we live in relation to those questions. But I’m finding an essential humanity in many diverse media/art forms.
And it makes sense that there would be. All art is created by mortal humans. Mortality messes us up. We’re all damaged and incomplete. And yet, as Mormons, we believe that we all enter mortality with unique personalities and prior experiences and, more importantly, that we all chose to do this. The fact that we all chose this life means that we all want the same thing. We experience confusion about how to get that. Art is a key way in which we hash that all out. In every artist then, is a spirit (and a light) who is striving and who comes with certain (often veiled) truths. Some of that is going to leak its way out on to the page or the canvas or the stage. And we’re going to recognize that if we give ourselves a chance to.
Of course, there’s still clumsy art, shallow art, insular art, (sexual or violence) porn, etc. Sturgeon’s Law and all that. And, as I proclaim in the post linked to above, we all have to draw our lines, and I have no problem with people drawing those lines differently. However, I think that even as we draw such lines we should avoid dismissiveness. Which means we should draw such lines with some awareness and experience — not out of naive zealotry.