January has undone me and not in a good way. It was like a guest that shows up to find you just stepped out of the shower. I wasn’t ready. It took me along in a sea of to-do’s not listening to my early morning groans from beneath the covers. I’ve valiantly fought my way back into the normal flow of day-to-day but made a silent oath to myself to see more theatre, music, and hear poets and storytellers–live and in person in 2014.
Aristotle said that purging an audience of pity and fear is in essence a critical duty of the theatre to keep a society civil. What he meant was, purge the big emotions in the theatre and they’re less likely to be re-enacted out in the streets. I agree with him but add that it is not only a functional purpose but a spiritual one. Not in the sense of religion but in the sense of one’s soul, nourishment of one’s own silent place, contemplative moment, solace. In a world of digital transience, it is important we don’t lose touch with literature, theatre and music performed in real-time in front of us. Sometimes these things are more work to attend. We might have to put on our coats and buy tickets, pay for parking and find a seat and pay attention–wait for it–without checking our iPhones for several hours.
We have to listen.
I saw a lovely production on Saturday of Chekhov’s The Seagull put on by the UBC Theatre and throughout the performance I was struck at the words and the timelessness of the messages subtly woven into the play. Great artists tap into universal truths that never really go away. In a world moving as fast as it is, listening to a piano concerto or seeing a play sharpens our senses, ignites our imaginations and demands we stop our own inner daily chatter and open ourselves up to the artists’ story world. Therein we are changed.
This is a unique experience I think specific to the performing arts. Cherish your performing arts in your community; I truly believe they are even more important now then when Aristotle lived.