Have a Vicarious Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Have you ever felt as though you've lived an entire life in a world that exists only in your imagination? Philosophers have explored the idea of two worlds, a theory with many variations, but one that basically divides the world into the realms of the abstract and concrete, or universals and specifics.

Artists play an important role in this theory, charged with building bridges to those worlds we cannot see. Art allows us to explore that invisible world without losing our way or becoming what we fear. It's where we play and experiment and figure out who we are, who we can be, or who we don't want to be. The struggles we face alone are examined through the underlying connection to the larger abstract world, and writing can be a bridge that explores the depths of compassion, empathy, hatred, and love.

A few nights ago, when I should have been grading papers, I came across David Kirby's poem "All Art is the Blues." He summed it all up in the line, "You don't have to go to jail, Johnny Cash went to jail for you, for us all."

Here's the audio version of his poem: https://soundcloud.com/lsupress_and_tsr/all-art-is-the-blues-by-david

Today is Valentine's Day, and romance is in the air. I know this because in the past few weeks I've seen dozens of attractive couples holding hands in jewelry and matchmaking-website commercials. Love doesn't always end well, though, and books allow us to live vicariously through the mock destruction of our souls without destroying our lives. (Would you really marry a vampire knowing a beach vacation is now completely out of the question? I don't think so.) But you may want to read a sad love story, or experience the bliss of falling in love again. If so, you have many options, including Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights or Anna Karenina.

Artists push the envelope into unfamiliar and often uncomfortable territory. We lead the way through the realm of abstract ideas where we can be brave, compassionate, lovesick, or something equally thrilling or terrifying.

Which imaginary world is real to you?

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and her short story, Shirley and the Apricot Tree, was recently published in Kansas City Voices. She earned the Writing Certificate from UM-St. Louis, and her poems have been published in numerous journals. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.


Sioux Roslawski said...

I happen to love sad stories. Sad love stories, too. (Doctor Zhivago is one of my favorites.) The sadder, the better.

But I'm weird that way...

Pat Wahler said...

Sometimes reading a sad story or watching a sad movie feels therapeutic-the cleansing "good cry" theory, I suppose.

Generally speaking, though, I prefer an ending that gives me hope.


Mary Horner said...

I agree with you both, Pat and Sioux, sometimes I'm just in the mood for a sad movie regardless of the reason.

Renee Roberson said...

Yes, I'm always drawn toward the sad, too. I also love stories where the characters are so flawed (Gillian Flynn novels come to mind) that I close the novel feeling so much better about myself. Your example about the vampire cracked me up!

Mary Horner said...

Thanks, Renee, I think we can all relate to the flawed character, and to be honest, the beach was the first thing I thought of when I thought about marrying a vampire, and between the two, I couldn't give up the beach!

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