High art has its place

I was giving some more thought to my recent post about my preference for popular, mass entertainment over what might be called high art.

On the one hand, I shouldn’t overstate it. I do enjoy some good pop songs, or blockbuster movies, but I’m really not able to devote that much time to them. I’ve always had a sense that there are more important things to spend time on, and have made an effort to spend time on those other, more beneficial pursuits. I consider that a piece of good fortune I’ve had, consequent on the sorts of people who have helped shape what I care about over the years.

The one genre of relatively low art that I really do keep coming back to somewhat compulsively is page-turners, fiction that emphasizes plot. Still, even there I have some standards, and I hope that I gravitate generally toward some of the better examples of that art form.

But I wanted to clarify, too, that I’m not against high art. I’m just against pretending to like it because it makes you feel good about yourself.

I think that a great way to enjoy a great piece of art would be slowly, repeatedly, and with lots of instruction and research.

I don’t want to show up at the opera, hate my life for three hours, and then walk away thinking about how much better I am than the people who spent the evening watching Netflix. That’s just as much a waste of time as watching Netflix. In fact it’s worse, because at least watching Netflix doesn’t make anyone insufferably pompous.

When I am ready to spend time enjoying great art, I want to do it properly. And I think that’s why I haven’t really gotten around to it yet – because it will be an investment of time and energy, and for now I am focused on committing those scarce resources to activities that seem to me even more pressing, like getting a solid foundation in my understanding of philosophy and history, and some basics of things like economics and political theory. It feels like it will be a long time before I’ve worked my way down the list to the point where I can devote myself to reading Dostoevsky and watching theatrical productions of Renaissance playwrights.

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