Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Candles in the Dark

I read an article in the Boston Globe recently about a blogger who blogged nothing but good news about the war in Iraq. Apparently he found enough good news to keep him working for a year and a half, and then he quit. Now I’m aware that I’ve written at length, quite cynically, about the decline of the humanities and about the efforts of the Bush administration to kill off the arts and sciences once and for all in the name of almighty corporate capitalism. I write books in my head with titles like "The Decline of Language." I reverse engineered the joke behind "Eats Shoots and Leaves" and laughed to myself out loud (my version had a Panda.) I’ve often been accused of pedantry when I’m not being accused of being a slovenly, half-educated philistine (both are sadly close to the mark.) But enough is enough. I’m turning over a new leaf. I’d like to begin a series dedicated solely to good news in the humanities. These are the stories that bring tears to my eyes, which make me feel like, dammit, something good is happening out there, even though the news won’t report it. I would like to call this series, "Candles in the Dark." And so I offer for recognition the preservationists from the Chicago Conservation Center who risked their own lives to save priceless works of art in New Orleans and the rest of the hurricane-damaged areas of the Gulf Coast. These dedicated servants of the arts literally donned rescue gear, complete with hoods, gloves, boots, and respirators, and made their way through the floodwaters to rescue the city’s artistic treasures. Let’s also honor the steady hands at the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and the workers at the New Orleans Museum of Art, who kept their post in the museum when all hell had broken loose outside. What this proves to me is that there are forces at work in the world more powerful than brutality, more formidable than cynicism, more brilliant than sophistry. There are still educators, and scientists, and poets, and painters, and musicians, and scholars, who care deeply about what is most precious, who know intimately the fragile beauty of artistic creation. It’s that spirit which has gotten humanity out of some of its toughest scrapes, which kept singing even when the guys with the guns showed up, which preserved light when darkness had fallen on all sides. And it’s their work which will emerge out of all the chaos, greed, stupidity, corruption, venality, cruelty, and petty strife which counts for news in this day and age, and it’s their work which will be preserved, and remembered, and honored by future generations.

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