Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Honor your interests, read the news and live beautifully. This is important work.

"What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? Beauty?? Am I kidding?!"

Horrified and violently ashamed, these thoughts raced through my heart, and mind, and gut as I watched The Kite Runner at a preview screening in Maryland Monday night. Khaled Hosseini's novel of loyalty, shame, and hard-won redemption has been made into a powerfully emotional film by director Marc Forster. Immaturity and weakness of character have life-and-death-consequences in this story, and the protagonist confronts internal and external demons at its climax set in the Taliban's fear-and-violence-ridden Afghanistan.

Stunned and weeping, I sat in the theater wondering how I could possibly have chosen to devote my life to beauty when the world is so ugly and violent. "Beauty?" I thought. "Really, Adjua? Beauty? What an irrelevant luxury. Grow up, and do your part. Fix this!" I shouted at the cacophonous volume of thoughts held in the mind.

As I write this, I am riding the train home from Baltimore and am calmer now – assured anew by a few thoughts:

One: Not everyone has to fight on the front lines. The most courageous generals need solace and peace and art and beauty to come home to after the most important battles. The reality of war need not mean the irrelevance of beauty.

Two: There is no sense in dishonoring your strengths straining to fill positions for which you are unfit but which you hold in higher esteem.

Three: With each of us in the role we are best suited to play our team is stronger as a whole.

Four: I have been born in a time and place that do not demand I struggle and fight for every aspect of my existence. This good fortune has allowed me to enjoy a good life including the intellectual awareness and emotional energy to address the problems I encounter and learn of in the world. Guilt at my good fortune is a form of ungratefulness. My day-to-day life is not hard. It is delightful. My responsibility is to enjoy this gift, remain aware of is rarity – its fragility – and fight for a better world for all of us through the work I love and am fortunate to do.

Five: The Indigo Girls sang "Shine my life like a light" and hearing those words at sixteen, I was inspired to live as I wished others did. This deeply challenging directive requires so much to take on but seems the most likely way to change the world.

While I am somewhat soothed by all this, I am not wholly convinced. Afghanistan's recent troubles were made real for me tonight in Forster's film, and I had to reevaluate how I'm choosing to live. Only a fraction of the world's problems will be given such a presentation. As I continue my research on beauty, I must remain aware of battles that need fighting at home and abroad. I don't want to be caught painting pictures of war when it is finally time to get in there and fight.


Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across your blog while googling for pictures of Walt Whitman. I love when random, amazing internet things make themselves known, and your blog is one of those. I commend your quest for beauty, and I thank you for letting me put off about an hour of my homework while I read everything. I'm kind of in love with and inspired by everything right now.

varsity aesthete said...

Thanks for telling me that, Haley. While I enjoy writing here, for myself - and into the void - it pales in comparison to hearing that someone else got all fired up by this work. Terrific.