The opening lines of the poem “The Wayfarer” came to mind when I saw this stunning image by my old friend, the artist Tom Cullen.
“The beauty of the world hath made me sad, this beauty that will pass…”
Sunrise on a frosty morning. The air is so clear, so full of promise and yet, we know that it can’t last, that it will soon be day and soon, the hustle and hassles of modern life will encroach upon us and we’ll be swept up in the mundane chores of everyday.
And it’s even worse than that, of course. At the dawn of this new decade, we know that this beautiful planet is in crisis with Climate Breakdown (and that it’s we, humans who are causing it).
How many more frosty mornings will we see around here?
Yes, that’s what I’m wondering about today – and also where my art fits into this story. It’s that old chestnut: What is art for?
I like the reason given by Ellen Dissanayake -ie- that “art makes things special”.
In Conversations before the end of Time with Suzi Gablik, she talks about how in tribal societies everyone took part in making the art. It was for special occasions and ceremonies. The art brought people together – it was a community project.
The scene above is not unlike what you might see in Harold’s Cross Park in the days coming up to the community festival in May but actually, I took that photo long ago in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
Speaking of community projects though, surely the tribespeople noticed that some of the guys there were better at carving or painting than others… “Here, you do the pukpuk’s* head, we’ll make the sandwiches.” Specialisation must have been developing even those days and, with specialisation, comes the thorny subject of individualism.
Of course, a discussion about individualism versus collectivism is way beyond the scope of this blog but still… there’s no doubt that we’ll all need to work together, if we want to save this planet – but where does the idea of “quality” come into it? And how can our individual gifts be best utilised to care for the planet?
I’d welcome your comments on this (down below) but, back to the sunrise… here’s another of Tom’s wonderful images, just to remind us how beautiful the world really is… this beauty that could pass…
* Pukpuk is pidgin for Crocodile. Example: Dispela wara i pulap long pukpuk. (meaning: This river is full of crocodiles.)