Reality Bites

I came across a great quote by that brooding philosopher Nietzsche that is surprisingly positive at the expense of a perceived negativity: We have art so that we shall not die of reality. See what I mean? Art good. Reality, not. Well, it’s not that simple, of course. Since–as the saying goes–beauty is in the eye of the beholder, who can be the ultimate arbiter of what is “art” or what “reality” is similarly pleasing or not?

And here’s another expression to add to this line of thinking: opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. So you look at a piece of so-called art and think: I don’t like it. Or maybe you just don’t get it. Then again, if you dislike something and someone else does like it, how to determine who is right or wrong? Then you have to define some terms, as in what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Hey, what’s wrong with this picture? You’ve heard that one, no doubt. Sure. But what is the picture? Is its content blatantly repugnant? Offensive? Insensitive? Inconsiderate? Appalling? Depraved? What are the parameters of such judgments?

Hey, this blog entry is getting rather philosophical, methinks. I thinks. Therefor I ams. But what is being thought? There’s that expression: what were you thinking, which usually implies the “you” in question did something bone-headed. We can have a field day defining what constitutes being “boneheaded” right?

You bought THAT for how much? What the hell were you thinking? In this scenario, what difference does it make what the person bought and for how much? Different strokes, okay? But those assholes–uh–I mean opinions. One man’s/woman’s ceiling is another man’s/woman’s floor. Round and round we go, with Earth spinning on its axis, tilting away on its journey around the sun, indifferent to human thought. Good thing the sun doesn’t make judgments, or our Earth either. One or the other might decide it doesn’t like this or that and one thing dims and other spins slower or faster. Then reality is clearly a bummer. But while that might not happen, Mother Earth is–in my humble opinion–judging its human inhabitants. Those beautiful oceans, glaciers, greenery, lakes and streams, the air we breathe and the water we drink in order to simply stay alive are under stress. If Nature does think, methinks it is thinking, in its unfathomable power and beauty, what are you people thinking? What are you doing? If you don’t stop it, then…

However, not all of us see this unfolding climatological reality the same way as far as what thinking has led to what we are doing and what doing so needs be thought about a bit more clearly. Is this climate stuff alarming? It should be, but many choose to believe it is Nature being “normal”. Hey, opinions…lead to choices. We all make our choices. We make our judgments. Almost constantly. Much of it impulsively. Or compulsively. Some very deliberately and with no malice intended. We make plans, but then life/reality gets in the way, eh? Or Nature gets in the way. Going to that ballgame today? I doubt it, as it’s only 37 degrees and wet out there, in spite of what the calendar says and how it was 35 degrees warmer and brilliantly sunny just 48 hours ago. Nature, the only real superpower (take that you absurd, comic book frauds!).

Okay, back to Nietzsche. He also famously said: hell is other people. True dat! Oh, c’mon, you know what I mean. But that’s selective. Not all people are hellish, except that history would appear to proclaim that we human beings are a very belligerent, cruel and thoughtless lot. But history is a chronic occurrence. That paragraph up there that started this entry? That’s history. Is history artful? Maybe Nietzsche was alluding to the historical evidence that would possibly have him think of how art is an antidote to historical reality. The arts. Visual, performing art. Dance. Music. Literature. For me, especially those last two. But what I like others may dismiss as drek. Different strokes again…

Get real!

Art is a reality that can save one from reality? Go figure. And again, we all have our opinions. Based on, what? Intuition? Experience? Impulse? Does it matter? Yeah, it does. Take a look around. Who would want to choose this reality?: The Sultan of Brunei declares adultery and homosexuality shall be punished by stoning the accused to death. Stoning? it’s 2019! Not that any prior time legitimizes such cruel and unusual punishment…for simply being human. Nature? Yeah, as in human nature. Look around. What do we hear and see? Our sick world, far and wide. Not exactly a love fest. Or, close to home, our current government wanting to cut 1.2 billion dollars for both academic, plus before and after school programs. Or cutting $190 million for programs to boost literacy from birth to age 20, or another 27 million for grants aimed at school libraries. And 25 million or so for arts education programs that someone in D.C. thinks is a waste of money. I guess the art budget cut is intended to deny many students of the ability to escape dreaded harsh reality. Damn. Absolutely Draconian.

This is reality, folks. And so, a tip of the hat to that brooding philosopher about art helping us survive. Or at least endure. While we all wait for an outcome. And if painting, sculpture, dance, singing, playing music, taking in a puppet show or watching some TV series, or a movie, a documentary or reading some author just doesn’t connect with you, then maybe that long walk along the beach. Watching that sunrise or sunset. Smelling those roses. If for only that brief moment. Listening to and watching the birdies. The wet grass beneath your feet. The oddly comforting–at times–sound of the rain falling. Yeah, maybe it’s Nature that is your art that takes you away from what you need being taken away from.

Or petting the pooch or the kitty. Think about how many people freely admit to liking animals far, far more than people. Opinions. Makes sense to them.

Me, I’m getting a bit tired of waiting for reality to make more sense, at least as I judge right from wrong and treasure from trash, and all the rest. One person’s rapture is another person’s dread I suppose. Think of Van Gogh cutting off that ear. Great art from great suffering? Maybe.

Suffer no fools, though. And don’t argue with a fool. Others may not not be able to see the difference–to throw down one more expression that fits our current national dysfunction. Unfortunately, some fools display that characteristic as an ugly form of art. You might know what/who I’m alluding to. My eyes are wide open. A blessing and a curse. And so, to quote from one of the forlorn characters from what I consider a monumental work of art–The Iceman Cometh: Don’t be a fool! Buy me a drink! To What point did you think this discourse was leading? Something profound? I’ll leave that to O’Neill or Nietzshe.


About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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1 Response to Reality Bites

  1. Some intriguing perspectives in this blog post — they give me a new way of thinking about another famed quote — history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.


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