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Art in a time of war

Well, here it is again. Anniversary Day. Fantastic. I know many of you are wandering about your day, bouncing around the haphazardly placed obstacles of memory as if you're a bearing in a pinball machine. Many of you get stuck, obsessing over what happened, what might have happened differently, and what that might have meant to your friends, your family or your loved ones. I feel for you. I do. 9/11 was really bad. For New Yorkers. For the US. For peace in our time. I worry that this will be the defining event of a generation, like the Kennedy assassinations were for my parents. "Where were you when ...?" will be that thing we all talk about, over wine, with friends new and old, as we drink and shake our heads. That thought makes my head hurt.

And as bad as 9/11 was, it’s just one of many such dotting my own personal pinball machine. The shooting in Newtown was no more directly relevant to me than was 9/11; no one I personally know was killed or hurt. Doesn’t stop the photo montage of kids, families, and empty seats at the dinner table. These events are still actinic in my mind’s eye, still too awful to really see. Roaming now, the highlight reel flashes over the tragedies of mundane illness, to the bolt-from-the-blue freak accidents, to global catastrophes like hurricanes, tidal waves and other “acts of God”. The acts of Man mark the shift from bile to fire, but with decades of war, struggle, and death, it’s so easy to roll them all up and condemn them as “inhumane”, and lose sight of that little girl with her parents’ blood on her hands as she wails. This is where the lamp burns through my mental filmstrip and everything goes white and hot. How utterly common that sight is across our little rock. Common now, and common for most of our history.

We’re a dirty, messy, and altogether beastly bunch.

I say all this after spending an hour just staring at my record collection. I had a bit of time between “things” this morning, and perhaps foolishly tried to shake my mood off like a dog. Failing that, hopefully deflect it a bit. Ha.

I picked up Copland. Dropped it on the turntable. Turned up Fanfare for the Common Man.

… and drifted ….

I’m reminded that we, as a species, aren’t defined by any one (huge, glaring) facet of our biological character. We are more than merely red in tooth and claw. Or rather, we can be. We certainly should be.

That’s what I struggle with on this anniversary and all of the others that mark out heinous acts. How to reconcile art with blood. I wonder if that’s what our Maker will struggle with, too.

Bah. Okay. Back to work.

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.