June 26, 2007


Caption: These guys don't worry too much about the horror or absurdity of existence.

Yesterday's post was about how art made life more livable. Here's another little odd tidbit on the subject from Friedrich Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy.

First a little preface. There is no denying that nasty things happen all the time to pretty good people and that nobody gets out of here alive. And, from a certain perspective, the human saga sometimes resembles hamsters running on treadmills.

It's just that healthy minded people usually ignore that kind of thinking. Nietzsche was not one of them...He was one of those who at times see "everywhere only the horror or absurdity of existence." But he believed there was a cure the ancient Greeks found that could break that spell and encourage people to say "yes" to life in spite of all its hardships:

Here, when the danger to his will is greatest, art approaches as a saving sorceress, expert at healing. She alone knows how to turn these nauseous thoughts about the horror or the absurdity of existence into notions with which one can live: these are the sublime as the artistic taming of the horrible, and the comic as the artistic discharge of the nausea of absurdity.

In other words, art, either as comedy or tragedy, makes life more bearable.

That's pretty extreme for most people, but it does, along with other things, help.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, the arts and creativity could also hold the key to a better future for places like El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia. According to CreateWV.com, a project of A Vision Shared and allies, "culture, creativity and innovation" are the keys to moving WV into the new economy.

To get there, though, we need several things, including talent, technology, tolerance for the new and the different, and the kind of quality of life that draws talented, creative people from elsewhere to come here and encourages our own talented and creative people to stay here and make a difference. This means public investments in education, infrastructure, and research and development.

This would be the high road to economic development and a better future for all. The alternative, such as it is, is a low road, which would slash investments in education, health care and infrastructure, reduce labor standards, and promote a race to the bottom.

Given the choice, I'd prefer the high road.

FOR MORE EXAMPLES of a high road approach, click here.



thinkulous said...

I love this post, especially when you point out that "healthy-minded people usually ignore that kind of thinking." I definitely agree. I, myself, grew up with some people who dwelt more on the horror-absurdity end of the continuum than on the "Hey, life can be pretty decent, or at least amusing and strange" end. They used art almost as medicine against existential pain. I learned to do the same, until I got old enough to start doing my own thinking (and therapy) and at least begin to walk another direction. But I still hold that art (movies, music, drama, dance) can be sacred, in its nature and in its effect. Definitely.

El Cabrero said...

It would be hard to imagine a completely unadorned life, wouldn't it?