Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sgt. Pepper Taught the Band to Play . . .

I had just read a weblog's headline, "It was 26 years ago today," a slight change to the original line, but still my response was to continue with line two of that famous Beatles song. And that got me thinking (dangerous).

Words, phrases and images, like these, become a part of a common culture in many ways, today most often through a medium other than the traditional words, music, paintings and architecture of our forefathers. That is, today our common images are received through TV, movies, mp3 files and the like. I'll make a lot of enemies by adding and I think we are the worse for it. I think there is a qualitative difference between watching a play in a theater and watching a movie on a screen. Or watching a live piano performance, versus listening it on an iPod. Don't ask me to prove it, I can't, but I do observe it. That's not the point of this essay, and regardless of what I think, we live today, not yesterday and our common understanding of the world is audio-visually inspired.

We complain about the presidential election being overly influenced by photo-ops, TV commercials, and debates that are non-substantive. The truth is, we are moved by them more than we realize or want to realize.

Every family or close group of friends has common words and phrases that mean something special to them and them alone; towns, nations and even the broader cultures do, too. These words and phrases are loaded with meaning and shades of meaning and provide parallels to reality that help these groups commonly relate to the world around them. We remember great lines from great movies, songs and books for the same reason that Hellenic peoples remembered Homer's stories of Achilles and Odysseus. Theoretically, I may prefer their method, but their way and ours are both ways of enjoying a story and of identifying ourselves with the story.

Images are important, metaphors are important. Every once in a while I read of someone referring to the mind as a kind of memory chip, and I cringe with fear of that becoming the accepted metaphor for man. I could moralize here and say that this is why it is important to have good books, music and literature in our homes and around our children, but that's not really my point of this essay and I'm not sure I like stories with morals.

Truth is, the lack of a point in this essay, reminds me of line from the movie, Trains Planes and Automobiles: said Steve Martin to John Candy, "...When you're telling these little stories? Here's a good idea - have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener!"

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