Saturday, August 19, 2017

No Secret to Me: from 7-20-15

Each individual piece of art that has ever been made is uninteresting to most people.

It's a strange way to look at it, but accurate. I can easily wander around my workplace and find people who couldn't care less about Bob Dylan. Indeed, it's just a handful who do care. Van Gogh? Mary Oliver? Caravaggio? Ursula K. LeGuin? Drawing from a pool of 40 or so culturally involved library workers I can rest assured that we would get nowhere near a majority interest in any of those lions, and would do no better with anyone else. And no doubt the fractional percentages of interest we do get in, say, F. Scott Fitzgerald, would drop significantly in the backroom of a library in Indonesia.

Nothing made by the hand of man has been loved by most people. When it feels like everyone around you is fervently talking about Downton Abbey or Game of Thrones or Gone Girl, take a breath. Look around. It's just four excited people, loud in the way of people in a group, feeling the numbers on their side. Twenty people scattered around those four have busied themselves, trying to make a little space to breathe. They don't care. They love something else.

There is always something else.

This morning I woke up with a line from a song in my head. It's one of my favorite songs ever. Getting up has been so hard for me lately. Something about this song today helped me get up, this line:

Just don't make me go through this again.

And then as my eyes clear the song comes to me:

But oh, it's one more tune,
I can't figure out.
Just don't make me go through this again.

And I can wake up.

Who knows this song? It is not famous. My friend Grape wrote it.

I love it like I love Nowhere Man or Karma Police or River. It is not due to my personal relationship, to my great affection for the artist, though I have those. I just love it. We are free to pretend that that is a normal thing, because it is. Grape wrote a masterpiece. Masterpieces are not so rare, but that doesn't make them any less wonderful. The famous ones are the tip of an iceberg. Almost no one will ever see most of the ones that have been made, the thrown away manuscripts, burnt paintings, songs that were never recorded, books that couldn't sell their paltry 1000 print run and faded away, scribbled poems, transcendent home movies. There are millions and millions of them. They may or may not find more than a single person to love them, but the beauty and wonder and feeling they evoke in a single person cannot be diminished.

What makes art a viable commodity anyway? If two percent of an audience loves it we can make it business, but if only half a percent loves it we can never send it around. That's just money talking. That's just the disease of culture, the weakness even in the heart of democracy.

Here is your Internet. Here is your Publishing industry. Here is your library. Dig deeper, but you cannot get there. Much is buried. Most is lost. Have friends. Listen carefully. See the graffiti under the bridge. Hear the song in the cafe. It's all around you. 

It's no secret to me,
That what I'm missing,
Is the very thing I wanted out of life.

It's all around you. And all the wonder and heart, it's all yours alone.