I’m teaching a painting course this semester, for the first time in a while. I must be in the right place, because I feel like I’m sticking my paw in a honeypot every time I have to prepare or research. Spending your time with this sort of thing can feel really… dumb in a particular light. Compared with other pursuits, choosing to spend your life making drawings is pragmatically absurd. Sometimes I can’t even conceive of the fact of it, but then it draws me in so deeply and holds me.
Music is dumb, too, in that pragmatic sense. But oh how I need it! It is one of life’s greatest joys. In the middle of any ridiculous dilemma, say, traveling with three young boys for a gruelingly long day, music can pop in and make the day livable. At the baggage check, waiting for my husband to park the borrowed car with my oldest son, and juggling an 8-month-old in a stroller, a three-year-old who is already whiny, and 6 bags of different sizes, a Sergio Mendez song comes into my head. I sing it quietly to the little ones, who get calm and happy. One of the airline workers must know it, because as we’re walking away, I hear him whistle some bars. I can’t tell you how many times a song makes a rough moment passable, whether coming from my brain’s jukebox or the car radio. In its best moments, art makes life bearable. It reminds us to think, reminds us to look, reminds us to listen, and think again. And think again. And again, getting our heads above the fog of the everyday. Okay, it’s a good job.