Art and Life: Living Fully

Many personal growth sites on the Internet offer lots of advice on how to live better, be richer, be more successful. But few suggest habits and attitudes which enhance the personal, subjective quality of living, the sweetness of moment to moment existence.

For that I suggest taking time from a life of achieving great things to enjoying great things. Listen to arias from the best operas to learn how beautiful tragedy, love and death can sound.

I remember Tom Hanks’ character from the movie Philadelphia playing a recording of Maria Callas singing “La Mama Morta” from Andrea Chenier’s “Giordano”.

This is how the aria is described in the movie. “This is my favorite aria. This is Maria Callas. This is “Andrea Chenier”, Umberto Giordano. This is Madeleine. She’s saying how during the French Revolution, a mob set fire to her house, and her mother died… saving her. “Look, the place that cradled me is burning.” Can you hear the heartache in her voice? Can you feel it, Joe? In come the strings, and it changes everything. The music fills with a hope, and that’ll change again. Listen… listen…”I bring sorrow to those who love me.” Oh, that single cello! “It was during this sorrow that love came to me.” A voice filled with harmony. It says, “Live still, I am life. Heaven is in your eyes. Is everything around you just the blood and mud? I am divine. I am oblivion. I am the god… that comes down from the heavens, and makes of the Earth a heaven. I am love!… I am love.”

I cried along with everyone else in the theater when I saw this scene. I had not heard of the aria before. That scene made the movie, which was otherwise just a good movie about the politics of AIDS.

I like crying at movies, operas, plays. I feel cleansed. No self-help advice can do that for me.

Art is not entertainment, as many people mistakenly think. It’s meant to challenge our comfort zone, push us where we don’t normally go. Life is not just a problem to be solved. It is a lesson to be experienced, never completely learned.

Take time to learn from art, music and poetry. Art goes beyond just living well. It shows us how to live richly and fully.

7 thoughts on “Art and Life: Living Fully

  1. You know, I never thought about it before, but you’re right about that movie. By the way, I always loved Maria Callas!

  2. Yes, I would have to agree art is not at all about entertainment! Art is about expression and emotions. All art comes with a message!

  3. Nice post David. I feel my art is an extension of myself or a method of expressing myself when other methods are not sufficient.

  4. Admittedly, I often look at the scenery around me…whether it be trees, the sky, or even something a simple as a glass of water and I have to admit that reality itself is the most beautiful piece of art imaginable. The infinite variations of color, texture, and expression…one giant canvas that tries to express every possible emotion at once…all very subtle, but still very powerful.

    nice post

    A Forgetful God

  5. I am writing to express that I, too cried at the scene about Maria Callas. The music alone is saddening plus what he is going through with being wrongfully fired, and dying. I was fourteen. I went to the movie with my parents, who sat a row ahead of me, as I was self-conscious about being with them in public (as teenagers get). I didn’t realize this movie was going to be so frank about these issues, and since it was, it brought out some emotions in me. I also was affected by the part near the end where Neil Young sings, the part where Tom Hanks walks out of Joe’s office after Joe turns him down, and looks so sad, and with the realization that I may indeed be gay.

  6. Nick- Wow, what a personal and moving little story you’ve told. To be so sensitive and mature at 14!! Opera can reach deep into one’s soul.


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