As an American who cherishes our history and culture, I am always fascinated at our current culture. And was captivated while reading The Impoverishment of American Culture, which discusses the ramifications of an entertainment based culture. As a young adult, I know I have an entertainment addiction, but after watching a movie or TV, I ask myself, “did this make me think,” “have I grown,” and the answer is usually a resounding “No.” In my opinion art and culture should challenge the viewer to question aspects of themselves or their understanding of the world, but when the world is mesmerized by people who think they can sing on American Idol, I think it is a pity. I am always fascinated when going to an opera that I am one of the few young people in the audience, unless a parent is dragging their children along for the ride. It is shameful that we as the American people do not embrace and explore the arts in our country, that many cannot name a living composer, conductor, artists, poet, writer, etc. I am guilty of being culturally “shallow” to an extent, but there are steps I want to take to acknowledge the arts in America, and I challenge others to take some of these steps.
- Replace entertainment with arts and culture. You don’t have to get rid of all TV and trips to the movies, but I challenge you to throw in an opera or a play. This can be expensive, but there are many selections available on Netflix or at your library to get your feet wet.
- Read books, especially literature. “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” – attributed to Charles Jones. I think that books are important for the growth of a person. I challenge people to explore books that do not have vampires, zombies, or wizards in them. I am a fan of balancing literature and non-fiction.
- Go to art galleries. Go to an art gallery and explore some of the best artists of the past and present, and even discover works of the up and coming generation of painters. If you live in an area which doesn’t have many art galleries, the internet has opened the door for many works of art to be viewed. They aren’t as grand as the real thing, but you can get a good idea of the work of art.
- Explore different genres of music. Some people, including myself, have fallen into the trap of only listening to a few musical genres. (For me it is classical.) I argue that one should explore a variety of music, and listen for what they like and dislike about the music.
- Have fun. Art and culture, in the view of the mainstream, has become highbrowed and disconnected from the people, but I believe that we have to open our eyes to the art and give it time. Art comments on society and the human nature, and can be fun and fascinating. It can challenge us to look at ourselves, which can be an experience that helps us grow.
- Influence others. Teachers, parents, siblings, friends, etc. We all have people that we influence. As a music educator, I have the responsibility to introduce composers of our time. A English teacher may introduce students to a recent writer. Parents could take their children to musicals, plays, operas, recitals, art galleries, museums, etc. We need to become advocates for the arts.
We, as human beings, must explore the world around us, instead of numbing our minds with entertainment. We should allow ourselves to grow and become more cultured. Give it a try, if you think it is a waste of your time and money, that is your right, but I dare you to just give it a try.