Two things have been on my mind lately, each relating to the arts and what place they hold in our lives: Entertainer (a K-drama) and WWII. More specifically, Entertainer has me wondering right and left what place music has in our lives (they’re all so dedicated to it!), and Man’s Search for Meaning has–along with raising that same question–helped give some real life application to the ideas.
So, what place does art have in our lives?
In Entertainer, one of the stand out scenes in my mind is when one character (Ha-neul) tells another (Seok-ho) his real dream for music: to perform not only for the music, but for and with Seok-ho. Without people, the music was useless. The same thing seemed to hold true for another tragic character in the show: Ji-nu. He has been used and blackmailed by the company producing his music–and at this point has nobody standing by his side to help him. Young and already unstable, I get the feeling that the one thing he loves–his music–has turned against him. The notes have not changed, but all of his reasons for playing, the people, have left him. And so I must conclude playing music is about people, really.
Switch tracks, look at WWII. The holocaust, Jews and gypsies and others herded like cattle to the death camps for extinction. Viktor Frankl spends some time in the book describing different defense mechanisms he and others employed to survive the hell they were in. The first that touched me was a shutting down of sensibility: there was so much death and brutality around him, if he tried to feel it all he would have died. And so they shut down, removed his heart from the equation. At some point, human emotion is pushed too far. And yet, they could not surrender their humanity so easily.
Art kept the prisoners alive–it kept their sense of humanity alive. He spoke of meetings held with the other prisoner, singing and acting and playing together. I think that in order to keep from breaking underneath the Nazis view of them–that they were animals to be used and killed–they needed to continue to see art. I don’t know whether or not animals can create music; but I do think it signifies a higher function, something that makes a human. Their nights of makeshift music–simple and unrefined as they were–kept them human when their world would not allow them to be so.
But back to Entertainer–if people really are what makes music important, and music is one way to remind us that we are human, then why again do they play?
I asked one of my teachers, a talented cellist with a husband of the same profession, why they play. She did not know anything of what I had been thinking about or given any leading cues. And she said this:
“It’s for the people. It’s to help them feel something they might not have felt otherwise. I mean, everything in the world has already been said–but if you can say it in a slightly different way, you might touch somebody else.”
Yeah, it’s also a job and yeah it’ll pay the bills. But it’s also more. I’m glad I have the arts and artists in my lives. The name Entertainer (Ddanddara) in Korean carries a slightly derogatory meaning, as if they are only there to provide amusement and nothing more. And that shocked me reading reviews about the show, as well: “well, so long as it’s entertaining, it doesn’t matter.” “It’s entertaining enough, though, so whatever.” “So long as it entertains.” That’s not the point! Perhaps it doesn’t resonate with you as much, but it does with others. Music is important and has a special place in our lives. I’m grateful that it exists, to tie together the distant areas of my life and keep me living well.
Thanks for reading and God bless,