I did not today have, or cause others to have, much joy. In fact, I was an actor in the kind of day that makes you want to take a second shower, get a haircut, sell your clothes, or move to another state (I considered each of these today).
No, I did not engage in any of the Deadly Sins. It was just a morning of the worst part of my job followed by an afternoon comprised in the majority of a part I don’t like, with an interlude in a smoke-filled house where I could hardly breathe. Fortunately, there was a lovely little West Highland Terrier in the house, and on my drive home I saw a small brown moppet-like dog on a leash, and smiled for the first time in hours.
This painting by Giacomo Balla is one of my favorites. It makes me laugh, my God, that’s what they look like! Watch–no, really, slow down and watch–a dog on a leash. That’s pure joy in motion, delight, movement, life.
It made me think about joy: there’s precious little of it going around, especially on a grey, gritty, dirty-snow-mound lined day when Rhode Island looks particularly poor (I was down in the residential neighborhoods by the airport). People are sad, people are worried: sequestration, budget cuts, global warming. It’s wretched, really, it is.
And then there’s the dog on the leash. From that swirling fur, I give you this:
Art can be the art of dress, of dancing watched or performed; sewn or stewed, written or drawn. It can be silly, too.
Growing up in Chicago, I used to slip out of school and go to the Art Institute. I loved the Thorne Rooms, St. George Killing the Dragon, and Mao. It’s so Ferris Bueller, isn’t it? But I hated high school, and loved the museum. When all else fails, there is beauty and meaning in art. I suppose that’s why I work in a museum. Objects gave me great comfort in their objective beauty. They showed me a world beyond the quotidian mess, a world behind the curtain, beyond the physical.
I find great joy in sewing and writing: this isn’t meant to be a dirge. I had a yucky day, but a dog cheered me up. When your days are icky and sad and long, find your dog on a leash, your dragon, your bliss: art helps us see the world beyond ourselves, and, I hope, our better selves.