Marcus Aurelius Online
While ruling Rome, Marcus Aurelius Antonius (b. AD 121-D. AD 180) wrote Meditations. In the twelve books he set down rules written in Greek, rules for living. A Stoic among Stoics, actually he wrote them to himself. In the year 2008, I’m wondering how these famous admonitions and aphorisms would best serve the art community in 2008.
Book 1: “the certainty to ignore the dice of fortune….”
Dem Bones: Certainly applies to any and all artists who enter the race for grant monies.
Book 2: “Now the flesh you should disdain …. blood, bones, a mere fabric and network of nerve, veins, and artifacts.
DB: “Body Worlds” is at the Milwaukee Public Museum until June 1/2008. But is it art?
Book 3: “Do not waste the remaining part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you are not thinking with reference to some aspect of the common good.”
DB: Does the common good include thinking about bad public art?
Book 4: “Remove the judgment, and you have removed the thought, ‘I am hurt,’ and the hurt itself is removed.”
DB: This pleases any and all artists who receive rotten reviews, are cut from the Mary Nohl Fellowship race, or have yet to be mentioned by local art critics.
DB: A useless rule when applied to the coming of the Bronze Fonz.
Book 6: “Some things are hurrying to come into being, others are hurrying to be gone, and part of that which is being born is already extinguished.
DB: True enough, but locals are still stuck with Gertie The Duck and the hunk of strange sculpture in Catalano Park.
Book 7: “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in that it stands ready for what comes and is not thrown by the unforeseen.”
DB: So what do we do with bad art that has us in a headlock?
Book 8: “Everything has come into being for a purpose … a horse, say, or a vine. Does this surprise you?
DB: Sort of, because it’s hard to reconcile that with much of the art I see.
Book 9: “Enough of this miserable way of life, enough of grumbling and aping.”
DB: If you are an artist, go ahead and push that rock up the hill, but don’t grumble about it.
Book 10: “The healthy eye must look at all there is to be seen, and not say ‘I only want pale colors’…this is a symptom of disease.”
DB: There is truth here.
Book 11: “No nature is inferior to art, in fact the arts imitate the variety of natures. If that is so, then the most perfect and comprehensive of all natures could not be surpassed by any artistic invention.”
DB: So why bother?
Book 12: “Practice even what you have despaired of mastering. For lack of practice the left hand is awkward for most tasks, but has a stronger grip on the bridle than the right … it is practiced in this.
DB: Left-handed artists will likely agree.