Conversation is hard. Because alone-time is my sanctuary, I am a bit more comfortable with silence than most. And so, in the midst of conversation, I allow for long pauses.
Which causes some to squirm.
But, there is a moment when I switch personas. From the quiet-type to the talk-your-ear-off type. A key is turned, and it unlocks an avalanche of thoughts and musings and opinions that pour out of a stream that will never run dry.
It’s when I talk about Art.
An important book for me was The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky. It was a meditation on institutionalized religion. It finally gave me the answer I needed to free myself from Sundays at the church. There are flashes of The Grand Inquisitor in that short story I wrote as a high school kid, an assignment for English, that I was (most appropriately in hindsight) skipping church to write. A moment I’d later write about in my personal statement for college applications — that mundane Sunday afternoon in front of my computer when the words came flowing out of me all at once and I realized that I had just found my own voice for the first time.
In the short story, the gods all sat in a movie theater, munching popcorn, as they watched the theater of life. Which was us. It was my biggest fear, in terms of god. What if we were not his sheep, carefully tended to in loving ways? What if we were entertainment, a reality show chock full of a comedy of errors?
Dostoevsky gets an assist on that one, for sure.
During another momentous yet mundane year, I remember scrolling across the rows and shelves at the local Blockbuster store. I picked out a DVD with Nicole Kidman on the cover. It was called Dogville. I watched it that night.
I still remember the feeling of awe as the ending credits rolled up, photographs of the Depression Era juxtaposed against David Bowie’s soulful rendition of ‘Young Americans’ in the background. It opened my eyes. Cinema was powerful. It was not just entertainment. It could contain a message. It could change minds. I was hell-bent on finding other examples of this.
After navigating the filmography of Werner Herzog, Michelangelo Antonioni, Terrence Malick, Jia Zhangke, and many, many others — I remember feeling a sense of nourishment that I had sought in those churches way back when. The true metaphysical act, indeed — this thing that we call art. And I’ve set my sights on consuming the purest versions of it, as much as I can — in hopes that in its place would bloom a vision of my own.
But upon entering The Real World, under the swift pace of responsibility and bills, I’ve managed to delay and delay. I have romanticized visions of it one day hitting me, like it hit Murakami as he sat, watching a baseball game one afternoon. In the name of comfort, of convenience, of “not having the time,” I’ve managed to delay and delay and delay even further. Hopefully, today will spark a change. Where I go seek it out, instead of waiting for it to come to me. Or perhaps, it is already inside me.
For all meaningful questions, Art, is the answer.