The Lost Arts

An archaeological dig through the ruins of lost arts – a dust-less venture, as far as digs go, done from your armchair – exposes layers of earth-covered phenomena from across American culture.

The lost art of compromise on Capitol Hill comes to mind. Already divided by “red” and “blue” states, America’s government has been further polarized by “black” and “white” ideas – conservative and liberal dogma. Perhaps the popularity of “Fifty Shades of Grey” will inspire the folks governing to explore the land between black and white. Probably not.

Then there’s the lost art of distinguishing fame from infamy (“Kardashian ?”… gazuntheit!) How can it be that we reward loud foolishness more than quiet intelligence? We ingest whatever the mass media spoon-feed us, unable to distinguish junk food from a gourmet meal. Even 2-month olds spit out what tastes bad; why doesn’t much of the public?

Patience, it seems, likewise lies mostly in the ruins; if it can’t be achieved quickly, is it really worth achieving anymore? We seek instant knowledge, instant fame (see above), instant gratification – even instant oatmeal. Just as there’s much to be said for the slow boil of oats, there’s likewise much to be said for the slow boil of ideas and labor.  Why spend years building true friendships when you can gather hundreds on Facebook between now and your next meal (probably instant oatmeal…). What’s called for is a healthy suspicion of things built too fast - friendships, meals, McMansions…. There’s no mystery as to why so many people, young and not-so-young, have attention deficit disorders; our culture, as a whole, has one.

The art of bunting in baseball was buried years ago. Steroids gave us majestic, arcing home runs and A-Rod and Bonds, so who needed bunts? “America’s game” had long been a meandering, relatively slow jaunt, full of bunts and similar strategic minutiae. Why the change? Well, we lost the patience to wait for runs to be scraped together. We lost interest in distinguishing – at the height of their hey-days - Bonds’ and A-rod’s fame from infamy.  One dig often reveals the bones of many lost arts.

Is there a commonality, a vein of ore that runs through the ruins?

The lost art of thought. Of deliberating, discerning, deciphering, mixing, matching, accepting, rejecting, swallowing or spitting,  Of resisting the temptation to simplify issues to black or white, of mulling the shades in between. Of chewing before swallowing the information you’re fed – and then perhaps spitting it out. Of not following the crowd – unless the crowd is enlightened. Of pending time on things, since reflection and judgement require time. Of learning – metaphorically - to bunt, since from small things, great things are constructed. From small thoughts, great ideas burgeon.

So think. And then choose. Yourself.