Most people feel that poetry doesn’t matter, nor highfalutin classical music, or Shakespeare, or Matisse, or Renoir, or Picasso. Oh! Sure they say. It’s OK! I go to a museum once in a while. I even listen to classical music. Poetry? Oh! Yea! I don’t know. But when the chips are down I wouldn’t give up chocolate never to hear another poem. I wouldn’t trade ketchup not to see another Matisse. What would I give up? There are so many trade-offs we make.
Let’s do a little bargaining:
How about one Haydn symphony for French fries? Come on! What does it matter? Haydn wrote 104 of them. What’s one more or less? But French fries . . . with ketchup . . . mmm! Can we give up Steinbeck for marshmallows and popcorn? Toilet paper for Andy Warhol? Bubble baths for La Traviata? Chocolate ice cream for West Side Story? Just one flavor of ice cream, not all of them. How vital is “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Is it worth a candy bar? A rubdown? The rides at Disneyland? How much does it matter? Most of us would say “A lot!”, But then again “very little”. You can’t eat music, or drink art. Though in many ways that’s exactly what we do. It’s not the hunger pangs in your stomach or the “I’ve just got to have something sweet” in your mouth kind of hunger but more like the subtle inhaling of the lungs, or the rhythmic beating of the heart, more like the light of late afternoon. You don’t notice it’s there but it is essential to your living, to your wholeness and your well-being.
So I know all that, but what would you give up? Would you give up baseball for coffee and all the tea in China? How about bridge for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? Or Van Gogh for a beer?