I have been hellbent on blogging about the art of listening all week. You know the scene – someone chooses to hear what they want to hear. You know this because you did not say what they are implying. But then you start wondering did they not hear it properly, or did you not explain it well. Nothing is more irritating than being invited into a conversation and realizing in an instant that your opinion really does not matter. So, how did the Art of Listening turn into Art Appreciation? Good grief, the cobwebs of a crazed mind have yet again put-up flashing detour signs.
I remember the first time I attended the ballet. The Russian Bolshoi Ballet Company was in Los Angeles. In my heart, I had no real interest to see a ballet. I am a vocal musician who could not dance if her life depended on it. While I enjoy the symphony, music without words is beautiful just not as meaningful to me. We had excellent seats not far from the stage. From the opening curtain, I could not believe what I was watching. These dancers were literally poetry in motion. Not a single word needed to be spoken. Their control and fluidity of movement were mesmerizing. The women were the epitome of elegance and the men could leap five feet into the air and land with the hushed grace of a falling feather. How did they do that? By the time the curtain fell, I was crushed it was over. Those visions lingered with me for a long time.
And then there are art museums. I was privileged to travel abroad many times. The British Museum in London is a 990,000 sq. ft. facility representing two miles of public exhibition space. And yes, there is some pretty amazing stuff there. The 2000-year-old mummified man fascinated me. I also believe the English have more Parthenon artifacts than the Greeks. Aside from that, would someone please explain to me the fun of seeing an entire floor of Chinese Ming Dynasty Vases? I feel the same way about 16th century paintings. If you have seen one you have seen them all. Some may be visually pleasing but spending hours perusing wall after wall of these things is exhausting. Okay, so art appreciation is not a given in society. I believe it is most likely based solely on education. Let me explain.
Who has not heard of the Statue of David? Somewhere in my youth we were taught of great artists and read about the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo de Vinci, Rembrandt, and many other art influencers. During a vacation to Italy, we planned a one-day stop in Florence to see Michelangelo’s David. As per our usual luck, The Accademia Gallery of Florence closed early one day a week – of course, the day we were there. By the time we reached the gallery doors, we had about an hour to fulfill this dream. We all went in our own directions as all I really wanted to see (or at least say I had seen) was David. A sign led me through a channel of rooms with mostly unfinished statues. Partially chiseled marble blocks were impressive, but a statue is a statue, right? I exited the first room and entered a long hallway with more of these unfinished works. “Oh, there he is,” I remember thinking as I checked the time and sped my steps to the hallway end.
David was perched on a marble pedestal in a beautiful rotunda. The closer I got the weaker I felt, and my breathing became altered. I entered the rotunda, slid to the right, and immediately fell against the back wall. My eyes flooded with tears. I could hardly stymie a primal impulse to sob. I really needed to sit but there was not a chair or bench in sight. Now, I consider myself to be a well-educated, intelligent person. How could I not know that David, this magnificent marble masterpiece, was 17 feet tall? This was not a life-sized statue. His toes alone equated to the size of my head. Every detail was perfection right down to the veins in his arms. I swear if he would have flexed a muscle or moved a finger I would not have flinched. I almost expected it. The earth moved beneath my feet that day.
Oh, and do not let pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa jade your perception of this architectural anomaly. There is no way that building should be standing. My traveling companions wanted to visit a corner bar on the leaning side of that “accident waiting to happen.” Uh, no, I’ll wait safely here, on a bench, a hundred feet away, thank you very much.
So maybe, just maybe, appreciation of all art forms must be thoughtfully honed. Some may think that public speaking, singing, composing, listening, preaching, shot put throwing, creating, this list goes on and on, are abilities that are simply resident in our genetic code. Some are just better at things than others. Not always. Beyond talent, it takes focus, desire, application, and comprehension. Learn to open your eyes and your ears to the Art of Life. We may not all be masters, but we are all artists. Ah, but that is fodder for yet another rant.
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