Piracy in the Land of the Free

Raised on Robbery
Joni Mitchell

Piracy in the Land of the Free

Captain Hook
Walt Disney’s Peter Pan

The song and the cartoon evoke two images of piracy. The song suggests what is perhaps closer to the reality of piracy, self-interest and self-enrichment that need not be enlightened. The cartoon depicting Captain Hook from the Disney cartoon Peter Pan, suggests the romance of the pirate. The pirate is not, ultimately, very dangerous and the ideal villain with whom a boy might battle to prove his bravery. This is the pirate of the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films and of many of the pirate films of the early American cinema.

The pirate of cinema romance is not even an anti-hero, a humanized bad man or woman with redeeming qualities. The pirates of the early cinema are often like Captain Blood, the Rafael Sabatini character who is driven to piracy by circumstances beyond his control, even the “bad” pirates are more like Captain Hook’s pirate crew than the real pirates of the high seas. As a boy whenever we played “cops and robbers” or pretended to be swashbuckling seafarers it was always the persona of the robbers and the pirates we most wanted to assume.

The Pirates of Stone County Road
John Stewart

What I always enjoyed about this John Stewart song was the way he played with the image of the child pretending to be the pirate and imagining the back porch to be the deck of a pirate ship. Michael Chabon in an article for The New York Review of Books, “Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood”, writes about the role of adventure in the life and development of a child. I suppose his point is one that has been made many times before, that children need to take some of the risks that children always enjoy taking if they are to develop into confident and successful adults. As a culture, though, we are becoming a bit overprotective and as a result children may not be learning some important lessons about risk taking that help prepare them for adult life.

I remember in the neighborhood where I grew up there was a water pipe that spanned a huge ravine that was hundreds, to a child maybe thousands, of feet deep. It provided water, I suppose to homes on both sides of the canyon. As children my friends and I would climb the fence designed to keep us off the water pipe and would walk the pipe from one side of the canyon to the other. It was great fun, but probably not the wisest thing to do. I know I wouldn’t let my child do anything so foolish. But to what extent has my willingness to take risks as an adult been shaped by my eagerness to take risks as a child. Chabon ends his article, “Art is a form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted—not taught—to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?” To a great extent the stories we shape as adults had their beginnings in the stories we imagined as children and perhaps our willingness to try something new and different, whether it’s writing a story or attempting something that seems to be bit more than our abilities, on the surface anyway, will allow us to achieve were nurtured by the foolish risks, like walking across a canyon on a water pipe, we took as children.

Illustration of William “Captain” Kidd
Howard Pyle

The pictures above and below are both of the notorious pirate Captain Kidd. The one above is a fanciful depiction by Howard Pyle for his book on pirates and the one below of the eighteenth century gentleman who was the real Captain Kidd. The real captain would not have called himself a pirate at all but rather a privateer. A privateer was a pirate who committed piracy in the service of the queen, or the ruling powers of the day. Unfortunately when Captain Kidd was finally caught those for whom he committed piracy in “the service of the queen” disavowed all knowledge of his activities. He was hung and, according to Wikipedia, his body was left hanging for many years in an iron cage as a warning to others considering a career path similar to that of the “good” captain.

William Kidd, Privateer, Pirate
18th century portrait

Of course Kidd was following in a long established tradition. The Spanish conquest of the New World was made a bit less profitable by the work of privateers in the service of Queen Elizabeth. Among the more famous was Sir Francis Drake, who, like Mick Jagger, was knighted for his service to the British Empire. Growing up in California I studied in high school of Drake’s exploits along the California coast. He claimed California for Britain not by planting a flag but by nailing a coin to a post. The coin of course had Queen Elizabeth’s image on it and was intended to show Elizabeth as the ruler of this new land, but I think it is appropriate that money and not the “Union Jack” was used to claim the land because the exploration and colonization of the New World was, at its heart, a mercantile enterprise.

The Battle of Trafalgar
J. M. W. Turner

The painting by Turner captures the reality and the romance of the pirate “adventure.” In every pirate film I saw as a child there was a scene where pirates swung on ropes from one ship to another, the decks of both ships filled with gun smoke from the ships’ cannons and falling debris as sword fights and other forms of hand to hand combat took place on the deck of one or both of the ships. But if we stop to think at all seriously about what is depicted in the painting the reality of what is taking place cannot be avoided. People are dying and they are dying in horrific and painful ways. Death in the movies, especially the movies of the 1930’s and 1940’s has a romance all its own. It is heroic, often over quickly, and rarely strayed far from the world of “let’s pretend.” Besides, the dying hero always returned in a year or two in another film, so whatever death was it certainly was not permanent. But the painting if carefully considered suggests a tangled mess of broken and burning wood and canvas and an awful lot of blood and dying flesh.

But it is one of the jobs of stories and story telling to provide us with the examples we need to help us live meaningful lives that are consistent with a set of values that shape our human experience. When the cause is just all this bloodshed is an act of patriotic self-sacrifice, and what nation can hope to survive if none are willing to take on such a sacrifice. But when the cause is unjust this death and destruction suggests the waste that accompanies human ego and ambition. When is a pirate a privateer and when is the outlaw the true seeker of justice?

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid is one of America’s legendary outlaws. I think it is interesting that “The Kid” and “The Captain” both had the first name of William, well actually William was an alias and not the kid’s real name, but as far as the legends are concerned both “outlaws” shared the same first name. Billy the Kid became a romanticized figure of the Wild West and is joined by other outlaws, like Pretty Boy Floyd, who had more in common with Robin Hood than Al Capone. But if Billy in fact did all that he was accused of doing perhaps it is Pat Garrett who should receive the lion’s share of the attention. But than the legend of Billy the Kid was largely Garrett’s invention, and served to enhance the lawman’s reputation and “bona fides” as a true western lawman in the mold of Wyatt Earp.

Perhaps the pirate is the bridge between the knight of medieval romance and the cowboy of western romance, who in turn evolved after a fashion into the hard boiled detective. Sam Spade tells us he trades on a reputation for being a little bit crooked, that it is “good for business.” In the ideal western romance the bad guy often has more in common with the outlaw (The Ringo Kidd played by John Wayne) in John Ford’s film Stagecoach than with the actual Wild West bandit. Real bandits and outlaws are not heroic or likable, but there is something in the human psyche that does not like people who are “too” good or “too” virtuous. The true hero of the Grail Quest is Sir Galahad but the readers of the King Arthur stories often find Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain more interesting characters. In fact even Lancelot is a bit “too” good when it comes to too many things and it was Gawain who captured the imaginations of many during the Middle Ages in stories like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or Sir Gawain and Lady Ragnell. But Malory’s Gawain has some very troubling, though also very human, failings.

Captain Blood
Warner Brothers Pictures

Growing up in Los Angeles one of the local television channels ran a program called Million Dollar Movie. This was, for a child, wonderful. They would show the same movie every night for a week. Of course this was no fun if the film was uninteresting to the ten year old imagination, but if it were a film like Captain Blood it could be watched over and over again. As a child I would watch this film and other like it and the next day find an old curtain hanger that could be imagined into a sword and engage in battles like the one shown in the film clip. This was probably not the safest thing to do, I probably wouldn’t let my child do anything so foolish, but it was great fun and it opened up imaginary worlds for me. Of course the plunder and the rewards were all imaginary as well. Though I tried, the ice cream man would not take the “play” money I had accumulated in my high seas adventures.

These thoughts were also provoked by a couple of other articles I read this week. One was a review of a new book by Chris Anderson, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. The main idea of this book is that we are evolving into a culture that finds other ways to generate profits than by charging for the merchandise it produces. There is an irony of sorts here in that the author, Chris Anderson, got into a bit of trouble for making “free” use of copyrighted materials found on Wikipedia. The material may be free to whoever wants to make use of it, but good manners, not mention sound editorial practice, dictate that the sources be identified. This is piracy of a different kind. At the heart of piracy, and all theft I suppose, is the desire to get something for nothing. Of course a lot of hard work goes into being an effective pirate, or thief of any kind and as a result little if anything is gotten for nothing if we include our “efforts” as a cost to be paid. Anderson did, after all, have to write quite a bit of his own material in order to take advantage of the opportunity to steal a page or two from Wikipedia.

The flip side of piracy and the “free culture” was suggested by another article this week published in The Guardian. The article, “Authors in revolt against plans to vet them for school visits”, reports on a group of authors of children’s books, Philip Pullman among them, protesting a piece of legislation recently enacted in Britain. This new law requires authors to pay £64.00 (about $100.00, I think) for the privilege of donating their time to speak to children. The intention of the law is good, it wants to protect children from those that may do them harm. But as is pointed out, these writers are never alone when they visit schools but are always accompanied by other adults, primarily teachers and administrators in the schools. The end result is that many of these writers will no longer make a gift of their time to speak at schools.

It is a tenet of our culture that nothing is free; everything comes with a cost, even if we are not the ones paying the cost, or at least not directly. Most online “freebies” are paid for by advertising that is directed at the kind of people likely to use the “freebie”, which means the cost of what is gotten for free is included in the cost of the merchandise we are being tempted to buy when we use the service. But are there other costs to a culture that grows up believing it does not have to pay for what it consumes, that believes itself to be entitled to whatever it needs or enjoys? What happens to news when it is provided at no cost to the consumer of that news? Who is paying for it and do those subsidizing newspapers have a say over what is contained in that newspaper? In a sense it is in paying for what we use that gives us a say over what goes into the products that we use. On the one hand we will pay large sums of money to buy products, everything from shirts to automobiles, that are advertisements for their manufacturers, piracy of a different ilk.

The only journeys that we take that are truly free are journeys of our imagination, though, as with pirates, we pay for these with a kind of effort; time needs to be taken to dream and to imagine. The stories that I read as a child and read today as an adult stimulate and inspire the imagination; they give me the raw materials my imagination needs to construct stories of its own and to craft a human and humane existence. The depth of my character and the motivations behind what I accomplish are often revealed in the stories I hold sacred, whether they are stories of my own making or stories I have pirated from other authors.

When All the World Was Young

Forever Young
Bob Dylan

When All the World Was Young

The Beguiling of Merlin
Edward Burne-Jone

In her book The Enchanted Hunters Maria Tatar tells us “Words have not just the astonishing capacity to banish boredom and create wonders. They also enable contact with the lives of others and the story worlds, arousing endless curiosity about ourselves and the places we inhabit. Such passion promises to keep us, at least intellectually, forever young.” In reading time often stops, or at least it seems to. But even if time does not actually stop, in reading well the mind retains its vigor and becomes more flexible. A story, to be enjoyed and understood requires the reader to enter its world and entertain its point of view. I must read Les Miserables with the heart of a revolutionary and The Man Who Was Thursday with a fondness for the established order (though as is true with most things Chestertonian, it must be a quirky fondness). I must be able to see and embrace the world from both sides of the fence.

This does not mean I stop being myself, or that my world view changes each time I open another book, but it does mean I have to give the point of view of the story a chance to have its say. For the sake of the story the world is seen through a revolutionaries eyes or the eyes of a gentleman with conventional views. I think it is easier for readers of stories to accept people with beliefs different from their own (not that they always will of course) because somewhere along the line there has been a story where those beliefs have been entertained and where they may not have been embraced necessarily by the reader, they have been understood and appreciated and for a fictional time the world was viewed through those lenses. Rosemary Hill in her review of a new edition of Wind and the Willows mentions another story by Kenneth Grahame, “The Roman Road.” The story, she tells us, is “a conversation between a child and an adult, its message that only the artist and the child are imaginatively free.” The reader lost in a book, I think, becomes like the child in the Kenneth Grahame story, “imaginatively free.”

The painting at the top is of Merlin, King Arthur’s magician and mentor. Like Benjamin Button in the Fitzgerald story Merlin, according to some versions of the tale, was born old and grew younger. He was a man who knew from the start what it meant to be old and came to understand what it meant to be young. He is beguiled as an old man, which would make him young and inexperienced in his reverse chronology. He knows what is coming, has foreseen it, but he has lost the wisdom of age and is experiencing the passions of his youth. Perhaps his mind has become that of an adolescent enchanted by a beautiful face. I enjoy the image of Merlin growing younger. Perhaps it is the longing of an aging man for the days of his youth or maybe it is the desire to preserve an enthusiasm for living that age and experience often quench.

“One More Step, Mr. Hands” Illustration for Treasure Island
N. C. Wyeth

C. S. Lewis once said, “In reading great literature, I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.” I think it is also true we become a thousand ages. The painting above is an illustration from Treasure Island. When I read this story I become Jack Hawkins, or at least like him in my imagination. When I read The Catcher in the Rye I see the world through the eyes of Holden Caulfield and become a bit like him. Though both these characters are the same age they come from different ages and therefore experience the world very differently and though as the reader I am experiencing the world of a teenager, they are very different teenagers living in very different worlds. So though the “age” I become in reading each of these stories is the same age in years it is not the same age in experience. This too, keeps the mind young and active.

Nor is youth always measured in years. I often tell people that the passage of time makes me grow older, but no power on earth can make me grow up. It can be said that Scrooge is a younger man at the end of A Christmas Carol than he was at the beginning. He is a younger man than he was when Old Marley died seven years before the story begins, if youth is measured in the way we think and behave. Unlike Merlin, Scrooge was not born old, but he lost his youth at an early age and recovers it many years later. Sometimes we need stories to remind us that being childlike is not being childish and that some aspects of age are more a state of mind than of being.

Children Playing on the Beach
Mary Cassatt

The paintings above and below by Mary Cassatt capture certain aspects of the innocence of childhood, playing on a beach, listening to a story. It is the aspect of childhood captured in the two children on the beach that many want to recover when they get older. The children are engrossed in their “work” and nothing seems to distract their focus. Their work is their play and it is what many adults want their work to be. There is a great deal of what I do as a teacher that is like sitting on the beach filling my bucket with sand. It is pleasure and it is sunlight and it is the waves and the cry of gulls. Obviously my classroom is not a beach, there is much in my day that is like a day at the beach.

Auguste Reading To Her Daughter
Mary Cassatt

The young girl listening to the story has a different look, a more mysterious look. Does she like the story she hears, is she listening, or is she somewhere else in her imagination? Adults often think that children want to hear a story, want to be read to, and often this is true. But I think sometimes children, like us, want to explore on their own, do not want others tagging along on the journey. In the reading of a story, whether we are reading on our own or being read to, the journey is always an individual journey, both the reader and the listener are “reading” the same story but they do not take the same journey. None of us can live in the imagination of another, though it is likely that our paths cross.

When I go to Treasure Island the island I visit resembles the island others visit, but it is unlike anyone else’s island. The journey is a personal one and that is important to remember. As a teacher I try to encroach upon the world that has been built in the minds of my students. I try to manipulate the story, to get them to see the palm tree as I see it, but of course this cannot happen. Those that see my palm probably see it only because they either did not read of the palm tree on their own or if they did, they did not see the palm tree, only the words on the page and were waiting for someone else to tell them how to draw the picture.

Baby Herman and Roger Rabbit “Tummy Trouble”
Walt Disney Studios

When we get to the end of this little film we see that the baby is not a baby (or at least we hear the voice of an old man when the baby speaks). If there is a child in this film it is Roger Rabbit, the baby is only masquerading as a child. The adventures these two have are the adventures of childhood, with all the exaggerated situations and expressions and the sense of powerlessness a child might feel in a large world that is out of control. The humor lies in the near misses and the indestructible nature of youth. Everything is dangerous and exciting but nothing, in fact, can do any harm. When the bombs burst Roger and Herman are scorched but unhurt. It is the world that some children crave that has all of the excitement that comes from living dangerously without the pain. After surviving the explosions and the flying objects both Roger and Herman leave the set to return to a safer, saner, and less exciting world.

Ursula K. Le Guin wrote a review in this weekend’s edition of The Guardian of a book of stories by Italo Calvino. The book is called The Complete Cosmicomics. The stories, according to the review are very fanciful and were not taken seriously when published because they too closely resembled science fiction and science fiction, especially in the 1960’s, was not taken seriously as literature, it still isn’t by some. But they are the stories of a childlike mind, with characters with names that cannot be pronounced having experiences that cannot happen. But that is how the comic world works. That is also how the imagination often works. In the imagination we often do the impossible, say the unsay-able.

I remember as a child I had a recurring dream where I was riding a bomb to earth (this was the late 1950’s and bombs and bomb shelters were often in the news). The dream always began just after the bomb was dropped. I would wake up frightened just before the bomb hit the ground. Then one night as I was having this dream I told myself in the dream “this is just a dream and no harm can come to you”. From that moment on I enjoyed the sensation of free fall and when the bomb hit, it was like Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman, no one got hurt. Perhaps this too is part of the comic world, the world of a “mind forever young,” where there is pain there is also resilience and nothing is hopeless.

Reimagining the World

La Bohème: Act I, “O Soave Fanciulla” (“Oh Sweet Lady”) Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert Von Karajan, Luciano Pavarotti, Mirella Freni & Rolando Panerai

Reimagining the World

Description: Rodolfo’s garret – set design for Act I of La bohème for the world premiere performance, Teatro Regio di Torino, 1 February 1893.Adolf Hohenstein http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:La_Boheme_Act_I_set.jpg

Puccini’s opera La Boheme is about “Bohemians” or the starving artists that were associated with Bohemia in the European mind of the nineteenth century. In this song Rodolfo and Mimi meet for the first time and immediately fall in love. It is a Romeo and Juliet at the ball kind of moment. It even ends with Rodolfo’s friends calling to him to come join them, as Romeo’s friends call to him when he sneaks off to court Juliet. The story ends tragically but not because of feuding families but an incurable disease. The story was recently updated and became the Broadway musical Rent. In both Rent and La Boheme the artists are outsiders and their art under appreciated.

Public schools, and perhaps private schools as well, struggle to maintain an arts program. These programs are often dismissed as non-essential to the core mission of a school. Often people think of “art-types” like the characters in La Boheme, folks who are a bit outside the mainstream and a bit odd. Science and math produce all kinds of tangible results that everyone can see but the benefits of the arts are often more subtle and difficult to put a name to. Math and science change the visible world but the changes produced by the arts are internal; the arts change the person. These changes to the individual are not always observable and where they are observable are often attributed to other things.

There was a review in the New York Times Book Review section on a study of the role of art in human evolution. The book is called The Descent of Taste. When I saw the title of the book being reviewed I thought it suggested a study of how taste in art has declined over the years. I anticipated a book that charted a decline in artistic sensibility that compared the music of Bach to John Cage or the paintings of Rembrandt to those of Jackson Pollack. There are many in the art community that do not care for the direction the arts have taken in modern times and I thought this was another book written by “one of those people.” But when I read the review I found that it was about something else, the role the arts have played in human evolutionary development. The title refers to an instinct for art that resides in us all that has descended down to us from our earliest ancestors.

Lascaux Cave Painting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lascaux_II.jpg

The painting is from a cave in France and was painted many thousands of years ago. It suggests that art, the desire to capture some aspect of the world around us, has been a part of human experience for a very long time. The book contends that the urge to create art goes back about a million and a half years. The book also suggests that this urge to create is a part of what separated humans from the rest of the creatures with whom they cohabitated. There is also the suggestion that skill at creating art made a person more desirable to one of the opposite sex, and perhaps this played a role in the evolution of the “art instinct.”

Saint George and the DragonRaphael Sanzio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lvr-george.jpg

As artists became more skilled at capturing the world around them the pictures they painted, as well as the sculptures they sculpted, became more lifelike. But is it the ability to capture the world as it is that makes a work of art, “art”? In this painting by Raphael the horse and the knight on the horse are real, the woman in the background is real, but what about the dragon? Is the dragon intended to capture a slice of the real world or is it more allegorical or symbolic? Perhaps it captures the world the way the painter believed the world to be once upon a time.

G. K. Chesterton once said, “Art exists solely in order to create a miniature universe, a working model of the universe, a toy universe, which we can play with as a child plays with a toy theater.” Does this view of art require art to be representational? Perhaps, but then as a novelist Chesterton often wrote novels that portrayed a world that was in many ways dissimilar from the world in which we live. In the novel The Man Who Was Thursday, for example, there are events no one would expect to find taking place in the real world, the premise of the novel is hardly realistic, and there are characters it is safe to say no one is likely to meet on the streets, then or now. But then the novel is satire and satire often plays by a different set of rules.

Cafe Terrace at NightVincent Van Gogh http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_015.jpg

Perhaps the first question that must be asked is what does the universe look like and does the universe the artist creates have to resemble the universe in which the artist lives? Van Gogh’s painting is recognizable as a café on a town street with people milling about. But though it resembles cafes we all have seen it does not look exactly like any café we are likely to see, even if we went to the street in Arles where this café could be found. Still, in the words of Chesterton a universe is created and Van Gogh seems to enjoy playing with that toy universe. But more importantly I am changed by looking at the painting. I do not know if a photograph digitized on a blog page moves the viewer, but seeing the actual painting does, or at least it did move me.

The colors of this painting when seen on the actual canvas have a “something” that the picture on the blog page does not. I do know if the right word is vibrancy, energy, or something else, I do not really believe there is a word for it. Real art often escapes language. A photograph of a great painting often makes the painting look more like an illustration; something designed to lend some color to the page. There are painters who work for interior designers whose sole job has become creating a canvas with colors that match the design of the room in which it will hang. The painter probably sees her or himself as an artist but does that make the person an artist.

I was once walking down Lakeshore Drive in Chicago and I was stopped by an elderly man. He pointed to an office building (I was on a section of Lakeshore Drive that bordered on the business district of Chicago) and said he started his career working in that office building. He started talking about his career as an artist. He said that he began as a commercial artist in the office building that we were facing. He said that at one time he did a portrait of the Duke of Windsor. He was an elegantly dressed man and his dress suggested he had been successful in whatever had been his career, so it was not impossible that he painted the Duke of Windsor, but I am not sure that it was likely. But if he had painted the Duke, would that make him an artist? Is it enough to capture faithfully an image?

No._5,_1948, An abstract painting by Jackson Pollock, taken from Art Market Watch.com. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:No._5,_1948.jpg

This painting by Jackson Pollack is not at all representational. There is depth and texture to it. It conveys an energy and movement, but what is there about the canvas that causes some to see it as a great work of art? Why are some people moved by this painting in the same way that I was moved by the Van Gogh when I saw it on a museum wall? W. H. Auden wrote a narrative poem about the same time that this painting was painted called The Age of Anxiety. The poem characterized the modern world of its time. It was an anxious time. A war had just ended and people lived in fear of another war, a nuclear war. The painting and the poem both evoke a time of uncertainty especially about the future.

But to return to the original question, why study art, why make art a part of a school’s curriculum when there are so many more important things to study. Does art and the appreciation of art make people more humane? Probably not. The Nazis loved great art, but were also capable of great cruelty. Nor are the Nazis unique in this regard, history tells of many others. If art does not make us better people, than what does it do?

Art does train the imagination and art does reflect back to us the world in which we live. The paintings on the cave in France, the paintings by Raphael, the paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, and the paintings of Jackson Pollack all reflect back to people the world of their unique time in history. They were Chestertonian toy universes that re-imagine the universe in which the artists that painted them lived. Raphael lived in an orderly world, if not in fact at least in the popular imagination. Jackson Pollack at the other extreme lived in a world where order seemed to be collapsing.

Kenneth Clark Civilisation

Kenneth Clarke’s television series Civilisation (Mr. Clarke could spell, he just spelled as an Englishman) was very popular about the time I graduated high school. At the beginning of the film he talks about there being three books in which a civilization records itself, its history, its words, and its art. There are not many who know the names of those that reigned when Raphael painted or when Van Gogh painted. If we remember who ruled when Pollack painted it is probably because it is still recent history and it is our history which most spend a year or more of their lives studying. It is perhaps too early to tell whether or not we want to be remembered by the things that our leaders have done or by the things our artists have produced.

The Getty Museum carved out of a hillside of Los Angeles, as a museum provides a resting place for the art that has characterized the world’s civilizations but it also stands as a statement of the architectural art of our generation. The music of The Beatles, John Adams, and John Harbison will probably have more to say about how the present age is viewed in the future than any of the leaders that have led the nations of the world in our time. The science of Dante’s time has for the most part been forgotten (though the science of that day was instrumental in producing the science of our day), but Dante is still with us.

I do not know if there is a satisfactory answer to why we should study art as fervently as we study science and math but it is very likely that the art we produced will play at least as significant a role in defining who we are as a people to future generations as any of our scientific advances. Artists often look funny to the rest of the culture and often believe odd things. But what is to be said of a culture that can put a machine on the planet Mars that will take photographs of the Martian surface and test the Martian geology that cannot appreciate the sublime nature of that stark Martian landscape and does not know how to make a song about it.

What does it say about a culture that does not see the need to train its youth to understand and appreciate the sublime; to develop the eye of the imagination as diligently as it cultivates the practice of the scientific method? It is the artist in us that must be cultivated that can imagine more to Mars than reddish dust. This realization may not stop us from exploiting the resources of Mars, but it may encourage us to feel, like the Walrus, badly about what we do and that is a good thing. But even if it doesn’t the realization will remain with many that it is a beautiful thing that has been destroyed.