This I Believe
At the age of 74 it seems a little strange to make this attempt to record, in a few words, a distillation of a lifetime of experiences.
Those experiences were of two orders. Many witnesses can attest to the arc of events in the first order of my personal history since it was populated by the inevitable relationships of family, friends, lovers and acquaintances, all formed and some dissolved, along the way.
There was, of course, only one witness to the second order of experiences in my life…me. There, I dealt with my interior life. In that interior space, furnished by two broad categories, were my life’s “events”, and my exclusively personal reactions to those “events”. That interior of consciousness and memory still contains a full range of knowing and unknowing, delight, awe, bafflement, fear, love, and hatred, physical and emotional pain, joy, pride, mystery and hopefulness.
I was, of necessity, the only one who was obliged to arrange the features of my interior space. But I soon came to the recognition that my life, its features, both interior and exterior, was inextricably entwined with my fellow humans. I stood on the historic shoulders of all who came before me, all those who nurtured me in my dependencies, all those whose interior lives were strangely somewhat congruent and all those who were just strange. I searched for meaning.
I saw the forces animating life as intending enhancement and extension of existing states of being. And, those intentions will outlast anything to the contrary. I came to believe that the operating principle of the human organism is “to make a meaning”, to tell a story with words, images, music or dance, to create a myth or even a science, in other words, to create a coherence from its encounters with its experience.
I came to realize that it is indispensable to the human organisms simple survival that it formulate, create, even appropriate from other humans this “arrangement”, which hangs together”…some useful and attractive “meaning”.
“Meaning” is that which can diminish doubt, satisfy curiosity, relieve anxiety, and allay fear from the otherwise overwhelmingly chaotic events of human existence.
Having these salutary effects tends to promote a sense of hopefulness and thus serves its creators well. I saw that all cultures, including the religions that spring from them are the manifold accretion of individual and collectively developed “meanings”. Individual consciousness is not the only one creating meaning; that is an old solipsism. It is not my consciousness or yours alone… but ours; creating perhaps a newer solipsism. It is an existential path, to be sure.
Thus I learned that the enriching presence of art in a culture is the highest form of “meaning making”. I came to appreciate that the “Fine Arts” represent the revelation of this operational principle and are not its derivative; it is thus very consciously raised high, so as to be finally noticed by all.
Happily then, all art, not just the “Fine Arts”, is our cause for jubilation, celebration, and joyously brings us to a faith… that life is to be honored.
It is from such a faith that goodness and mercy are born into human consciousness.”
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