In Art Or Language: We Should Reach for the Stars

Controversial 'Work of Art'

'No Woman No Cry' by Chris Ofili (1998). The painting stands on two dried, varnished lumps of elephant dung. A third is used as the pendant of the necklace.
'No Woman No Cry' by Chris Ofili (1998). The painting stands on two dried, varnished lumps of elephant dung. A third is used as the pendant of the necklace.

Brooklyn Museum of Art

Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York City whose 'Sensation' exhibit stirred great controversy in New York and elsewhere. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had seen the work in the catalogue but not in the show, called it "sick stuff."
Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York City whose 'Sensation' exhibit stirred great controversy in New York and elsewhere. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had seen the work in the catalogue but not in the show, called it "sick stuff."

My outdated dog-eared dictionary lists one meaning of the adjective "human" this way: "Susceptible to or representative of the sympathies and frailties of man's nature."

The dictionary doesn't embellish its definition with details, but the frailties it refers to could fill a book.

I'm aware that what knowledge I possess, if any, wouldn't fill a thimble. I often fall short of my own expectations. There's no need for anyone to enumerate my shortcomings. I know them all too well.

'I'm Only Human'

Despite this, I survive because I am able to justify my behavior. "I'm only human."

When I attended parochial school as a child the nuns at St. Peter's in Yonkers, N.Y., taught us that we are more than just animals because as human beings we have what animals do not: an eternal soul.

I believe that we are different from animals, also, because we strive for something more than what nature bestowed upon us -- both physically and spiritually.

Civilization Seems To Be Working

We've improved our lives over the centuries by developing many "creature comforts" -- clothing and shelter prime among them. And we've progressed spiritually and socially through our religious beliefs and the development of civilization, including the rule of law. Despite a Great Depression, two world wars, a Cold War and too many examples of man's inhumanity, civilization seems, more or less, to be working.

To keep the hard-earned advancements we've achieved, we need to be ever vigilant.

Old-timers like me -- I'm not the only one -- lament the decline of moral and ethical values we've all witnessed over the last several decades. We were, and are, far from perfect. We've said and done things we're not proud of, some that were coarse, obscene, crude, even indecent -- but, then, we're human aren't we?

There's a difference, however. We never attempted to justify our despicable behavior or, worse, tried to extol its virtues.

The recent fracas over "Sensation," the exhibit that drew hordes to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, is a case in point.

'Art' Defined by Webster's

I did not, and will not, see it, but it's clear to me the museum's aim was to boost its income. One can call anything one likes "art," but Webster says art involves the "conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects (italics are mine.) I think the exhibit fell far short of that (and don't tell me I need to see it before commenting on it!)

The victory that producers of "Chicago Hope" won over the censors at CBS-TV -- allowing the use of gutter language on the show -- makes my point even better.

Although CBS called the approval to use a barnyard epithet an "isolated incident," the approval of its use on the show demonstrates just how far we've fallen from what we not-long-ago called "polite society."

The crude word in point could not possibly be "important for artistic truthfulness," as CBS says, and, contrary to its statement, does signal a loosening of standards at the station.

I know that CBS is run by fallible humans, but couldn't they try to reach a little higher?

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Oct. 24, 1999. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

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Comments 21 comments

mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

I don't understand why you believe animals do not have an eternal soul. Your hub is really good, and it's content are inspiring, but surely a person as educated as you no doubt are, should see that an animal is just as likely to have a soul as we are, and it is not about whether or not we strive for perfection. An animal doesn't need to strive for perfection, as usually they have pretty much 'made it' already, whereas we haven't!

Personally I have no desire to go to a 'heaven' where I won't be reunited with my dead pets, as they have been the kindest and most genuine companions in my life. Why should they be condemned to not having an afterlife, when they have done nothing wrong?

I am totally certain my pets will be there waiting for me, along with my deceased relatives, when I die, and if you are not convinced yet, please please read my hub http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/What-Convi... or

http://hubpages.com/health/Bowel-Cancer-Stole-My-H...

as these include references to how i know my pets do go on to the afterlife, (and I went to convent schools that also tried to convince me animals had no souls).

Animals simply live their lives, eating what they need to eat, not killing more than they have to, not destroying the environment. Their morals and ethics are unquestionable, so surely they have earned their place in heaven way above us mere humans who constantly destroy the planet, the species on it and each other!

Sorry for the rant, but one pet frustration of mine is when people say animals have no afterlife, or are not entitled to one when I see how us humans behave, especially towards animals. :)


NYLady profile image

NYLady 7 years ago from White Plains, NY

William: A really nice, thought-provoking hub. I absolutely loved the video and will be emailing it to friends and my two college kids, who are hypervigilant about the problems that exist in the world we bequeathed them. Thanks.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Belief in an afterlife, mistyhorizon2003, has nothing to do with education and everything to do with religion. Nobody has the answers to the meaning of life and death. Each of us must struggle with that question on our own. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, having attended parochial grammar school, but I have long ago gave up being a practicing Catholic. I'm glad you get solace from psyshic mediums, but my personal view is that there are no human beings who have superhuman powers -- and those who claim to have these powers are charlatans. I love pets, too, but, if there is an afterlife, I don't expect to see them.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you very much, NYLady, and I'm delighted you like the video. I'm sure your friends and children will appreciate it as well.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Fair enough to have those beliefs, but as I asked my ex- who doubted the psychic mediums I had experienced, how do you explain what they knew that they couldn't possibly have found out through any other means?


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

That's a good question to ask "Amazing Randy," who has made a career of debunking charlatans. If you've ever watched a magician, you'd swear there's no way they could do what they do, but they are very clever and think "outside the box." Each and every instance that a seer cites calls for its own explanation. In medicine, they do "double blind" scientific experiments to determine what is valid. Unless a psychic can prove his alleged ability in a scientific experiment, he is not credible. Randy offers a hefty reward to anyone who can come through such a test with flying colors, and not one has done so.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Well of course you're entitled to your belief, but I shall have to disagree, at least on this point. Amazing Randy cannot seem to understand that a Medium can't simply choose what information comes to him, or when, or why, so there are probably no practical tests that could be set in a controlled environment. I know it is often hard to work out how a magician does a trick, but that still doesn't explain to me how a Medium who has never met me before in their life, only knows my first name and nothing else about me, can go on to tell me names of people I have lost, describe their ailments, (right down to the limp on his right leg in my Husbands case), know that his family treated me badly after he had died etc. All of which was information given without any questions being asked of me or any attempt made to pump information out of me.

Anyway, that is my fourpenneth for what it is worth, and I guess it is one of those subjects best not argued over as one side will seldom concede ground to the other. I am still a great fan of yours regardless :)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, mistyhorizon, and our philosophical differences certainly do not affect the fact that I think you to be a nice person and good hubber. I am delighted to be you're fan as well.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Cheers William :)


Bob 7 years ago

Bill, As of now only two of us voted in your poll. Looks likmy vote threw it into a tie.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

That will change, Bob. This poll will be here for a long time. It'll be a lot more meaningful when the number of voters gets a lot higher.


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 7 years ago from London UK

Anothwer great hub william and complimentary video!

;)

I too hope to be reunited with my pet i have lost, one day...


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, compu-smart. I share your hope to be reunited with your lost pet.


einron profile image

einron 7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

William F. Torpey

I agree that "we are more than just animals because, as human beings, we have what animals do not: an eternal soul." The Bible does not say anthing about pets in heaven unless there are two or witnesses who testify that they will be saved. Animals do not have conscience like human beings.

In heaven we would be like the angels not having husbands or wives.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I appreciate your comment, einron. We'll know a lot more aboiut heaven when we get there.


ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

Great video, truly. Excellent Hub as well.

Eternal soul? Having never met anyone who can provide evidence for, testify to or even describe life after death, I'll simply have to wait and see.

We're all energy, humans and all the other animals too. I've heard somewhere that energy can neither be created or destroyed. It's the closest to eternal that I can think of.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, ColdWarBaby. It's life's great mystery, of course. Where did it all begin and where will it end? If you find the answer, let me know. It'll make a great hub.


Eddie Perkins 7 years ago

William,

As an old timer, I like your hub. Keep up the good work. Thumbs up ~ eddie.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I'm glad you like the hub, Eddie Perkins, and I appreciate the thumbs up. From one oldtime to another: Thanks.


Mystique1957 profile image

Mystique1957 6 years ago from Caracas-Venezuela

William...

In spite of the article`s "age", I must admit that it shocked me strongly. Beyond politics and selfish interests of making big bucks out of garbage; exhibiting art that denigrates, debases or belittles our human intelligence and sentiments is simply DECAY. Language being so beautiful, colors being so encouraging, motives being so worthy of showing...Why would somebody who prices him/herself as an artist promote the ugly side of the human race? Worse, why would "money hunger" determine what`s art and what`s an insult to art?

This will always be current, William!

Great review!

Thumbs up!

warmest regards and infinite eternal blessings,

Al


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, Al, for your thoughtful and kind comment.

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