Do you have the time to read this? I know you are busy, and I only have a few minutes, so ...
Well, I guess that's the problem. No one seems to have enough time anymore, except maybe to get another cup of coffee so we can be energized for the next item on our to-do list. We all bemoan the tyrannical treadmill of our high speed, fast food, cell phone, Internet, ATM, Palm Pilot, e-mail, work late, 157 channels-and-there's-nothing-on world. But what can we do it about?
I often consider visiting nearby Walden Pond to experience its famed spiritual renewal, but I went there once and it seemed more like a public beach than a respite for reflection. I had a toothache and was wearing the wrong shoes. Winding my way through the dusty, pebbled paths, I heard Thoreau's voice whisper in my ear, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Our life is frittered away by detail. Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?" But then my cell phone went off and I had to put him on hold.
It seems that previous generations found solace in traditional communities centered around family, religion, local businesses and neighborhoods. We may hold those ideals in high regard, but we can’t go back in time. So where can you find community and quiet moments to enjoy the simplicity of living? Where can you go to discover not just more information, but meaning?
The arts have taken on a new significance and value in our technology-driven information age. Art is the antidote to our hurried lives. Art is timeless. Art lasts. Art is ready when you are. Art is best when it is slowly savored and considered. And at Brandeis, art is even more accessible than a walk in the woods.
I invite you to create time and to let art to help you.
I've found time by standing silently, without expectation of an immediate result, in front of a great work painting or sculpture. I’ve found it in a concert hall as the sonatas of Beethoven wind their way into my soul. I’ve found it in a theater as actors bring to life the beauty and ambiguity of what it means to be human. Art is imagination and psychology and history and biography and nature all at once. Whenever I attend the arts, I experience a spiritual renewal as profound as that described by Thoreau. I rediscover his belief that, "The world is but a canvas to the imagination … If one endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
So the next time you’re feeling hurried and hassled, create time for a Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra concert, a Brandeis Theatre Company production, or a visit to The Rose Art Museum. Don't just do something – stand there. There's no deadline, no grade, no right or wrong response. A voice-mail-instant message-high-priority reply is not required.
The great poet Maya Angelou wrote, "We need all methods of art to be present, everywhere present, and all the time present. In today's climate in our country, which is sickened with the pollution of pollution, riddled with racism, rife with huddles of the homeless, we need art in all forms. I suggest that art and art alone can be credited with our attempts, even bowed, to stand erect…I don't think art is obliged to answer the questions of conscience and morality, but art must pose those questions. Art asks us, 'What do we think is our reason for being on this earth?'"
If you create time for the arts at Brandeis, you just might find the answer.
Director, Office of the Arts