What Today Brings
“Yes, I am a dreamer, for a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde
I am writing from The Weymouth Center for Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Throughout the 20s and 30s, this mansion was the home of novelist James Boyd, Drums, and a haven for writerly guests such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Perkins. This place brims with literary history and thanks to The Friends of Weymouth, a non-profit organization chartered in 1977, it remains a sanctuary emboldening artists, honoring their need for time away to create, whether it be a novel, play or book of poetry.
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to those who recognize the importance of art in any civilized society. Music, painting, literature and poetry allow us to understand the human condition, enabling us to see beyond cultural stereotypes and boundaries, shining a light on the fact that we are an absolute image of one another, both in our darkest and lightest moments. There are only a handful of emotions, and every human being from the beginning of time has struggled with the same ones. At times the beauty of life is undeniable and at times it is invisible, it is in those times that we must insist on it.
Our nightly news, whichever brand you choose to call fake, will not foster the miraculous. The talking heads celebrate little more than who has been shot and who is robbing whom. That is but a tiny percentage of what we have at our fingertips. The sad souls trying to rip away arts from the education of future generations are unwittingly creating a dark poem with their ignorance. Each life has a theme, a story that will be told. Each life is a work of art. There are also religious and political leaders who would have their followers believe we are not all the same. They would have us believe one group is special, that one group is chosen and seen as superior in the eyes of our creator. This is uninformed, naïve and backwards, but also deeply damaging to the evolution of our higher selves. It throws a wrench into any possibility that we as a human race might rise above the petty greed and jealousies of our most undeveloped Neanderthal selves.
Blanche Dubois pleaded with her sister Stella, “Maybe we are a long way from being made in God’s image, but Stella – my sister – there has been some progress since then! Such things as art – as poetry and music – such kinds of new light have come into the world since then! In some kinds of people some tendered feelings have had some little beginning! That we have got to make grow! And cling to and hold as our flag! In the dark march toward whatever it is we’re approaching… Don’t – Don’t hang back with the brutes!”
Of course, we know how that play ends, or at least those of us do whose schools required us to read classic plays; they send Blanche off to the looney bin and Stella stays with Stanley, the brute. Tennessee Williams did not give much hope for the meek inheriting the earth, but he brilliantly put a mirror up to a society sick with depreciation for the sensitive and beautiful.
And to those politicians who believe art is not important in our schools and universities, I quote Pablo Picasso in an interview toward the end of World War II, “What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes if he’s a painter, ears if he’s a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he’s a poet – or even, if he’s a boxer, only some muscles? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being constantly alert to the horrifying, passionate or pleasing events in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How is it possible to be uninterested in other men and by virtue of what cold nonchalance you can detach yourself from the life that they supply so copiously? No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Amen.