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Vail Daily column: The real value of art

Don Rogers
My View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

On deadline no less, I’m thinking about acts of creation. Art, in short.

I work in an art-like occupation. Journalists at their best scratch at this highest of the arts, the holiest of callings, at once the simplest and the hardest of ’em all.

Painting and music require certain refined skills, as do acting, dancing, photography, sculpture, architecture, opera.

Writing? Not so much. It doesn’t even have rules despite what the grammarians may earnestly believe. We have some conventions, sure, all thoroughly abused by the great authors and the illiterates alike.

The one thing, the only thing, is transcending these lines, curves and occasional dots, these symbols, into thoughts, feelings, maybe some truths, perhaps a laugh and at the level of art, tugging the reader entirely into a whole world they see, hear, taste, smell and travel through even if it could not possibly exist in reality.

Like fighting in certain quarters, the only true rule in writing is there are no rules. And you need no special skills past grade school to take it up. You just write.

Maybe you have an audience. Maybe you don’t. We’re a little quick to assign “good,” “bad,” “meh.” That misses the point entirely, though. Or at least the one about our basic need to create beyond what serves our livelihoods.

Yes, a precious few of us get to live off our art. A few more of us earn our livings working in association with it. I’m talking about careers in, say, the music industry, a museum, Hollywood, at the local newspaper.

My obsession just happens to be with words. Though not words precisely. Storytelling, I’d say. I tilt toward books, magazines, papers. But the medium matters less than the tale itself.

Campfire or film, I’m smitten with our stories and how they teach us far more than as facts logically sequestered in lists, spreadsheets, big data or other means of ignoring the intangibles, the glue of human enterprises and efforts.

Art reaches for the ineffable, for the glue that escapes our reason, surpasses it, surrounds it, even guides it.

Our occupations call for generous dollops of inspiration, intention, organization, time management, productive interaction, purposeful attention and well-planned execution as we complete our tasks and earn our keep.

So much the better if we can be clever and inventive, too, while knocking out all that … work. We serve the great god Rationality, as well as develop our careers and means to afford the comforts and entertainments of our personal lives.

But we’re missing something important, too, if we’re only reading instead of also writing, looking rather than painting. Appreciating in place of creating. By not doing it, we relegate art to mere entertainment. That’s a pale shadow of its value.

Here I have to borrow from an author I appreciate all the more for following his sound advice, Kurt Vonnegut: “The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

There you have it. A key to a more fulfilling life.

Personally, I might have to draw the line at singing.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.


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