5/19/2006

Arts and Astronomy

My father-in-law, a researcher with the USDA specializing in mitigating wind erosion on crop fields, once asked me what writing in specific, and art in general, had to do with feeding the world. His argument was that people had to be fed first before they could pursue art and other creative works. I half believed him - afterall, how can what I write possible make a difference to someone barely able to feed herself let alone her children?

It's one of those 'back of the mind' questions that sometimes surfaces when I'm feeling a bit unsure of myself. It was gratifying, then to find this quote by Vatican Astronomer, Guy Consolmagno. He speaks of working in the Peace Corp in Africa and finding that people there were very interested in his knowledge:

And I understood then why (Astronomy is) important. It's one of those things that makes us more than just well-fed cows. It satisfies a really deep hunger to know, to go someplace, to explore. And that is a hunger that is as human, as basic to human beings as food and shelter and anything else. And it's denied to a person only at the cost of denying them their humanity. By telling poor people, "No, no, you have to go hunt for food, you can't do astronomy," you are saying that they're less than human. And that's wrong. And it's a tragedy.

Art is the same way, I feel. No matter who we are, we are meant to do more than just hunt for food, even if that hunt is in corporate America or the heartland of Africa.

Art is not a luxury few can afford. Art is integral to our humanity.

3 comments:

Gladys said...

that quote is totally right on! thanks for posting it.

Gura said...

Love that quote! It's like saying that there is no time to understand our world better. I think we also neglect the process of art that is found in every thing we do. Studying how to increase crop production is an "art", but we don't call it's output "beauty." And how in the renaissance art inspired science and back.

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

Thanks gladys and gura!

Gura - what you say about our vision of beauty as being limited is really incredible. Until that moment, I too was blind to the beauty defined by 'output' perhaps because of the great toll our current methods of 'output' creates on the Earth. Alongside the problematic results of GMOs and mass farming, though, is that sense that art and beauty are inextricably linked and that whenever we can identify an action as 'art' we should immediately seek out the 'beauty.'

The question then becomes 'beauty at what cost'? That which is not sustainable, for me then is not art...hrm. Never thought about that until just this moment. That art and sustainability are entwined for me. Thanks!