While in Sicily, Elizabeth Gilbert tries to understand a piece of the pleasure seeking Italian culture. In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, she refers to Luigi Barzini, an Italian journalist and author of The Italians who provides her with a large piece of the puzzle.
She writes, “Because the world is so corrupted, misspoken, unstable, exaggerated and unfair, one should trust only what one can experience with one’s own senses, and this makes the senses stronger in Italy than anywhere in Europe. This is why, Barzini says, Italians will tolerate hideously incompetent generals, presidents, tyrants, professors, bureaucrats, journalists and captains of industry, but will never tolerate incompetent ‘opera singers, conductors, ballerinas, courtesans, actors, film directors, cooks, tailors..’ In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down. And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.” (locations 2283-2290)
Love of the arts – the
Italians seem to have that down. The pleasurable things they do become art forms from singing to cooking. It is TRUTH and RAW and REAL. And I wonder where is our culture’s love for that? Sure, we love entertainment, but that isn’t always art. We not only don’t seek pleasure (without guilt), but we also don’t appreciate it as an art form or an extension of ourselves.
As an activist for arts education and integration in all schools, this troubles me. If we cannot assist and encourage our children to experience things with their own senses, they will not be able to seek pleasure for themselves and their loved ones. And we cannot begin to teach this to our children, if we cannot do it for ourselves first.
In the arts, one learns to experience something fully, to be in the present and later reflect upon it. John Dewey explains an esthetic experience in his Art as Experience. It is a “wholehearted action” that “moves by its own urge to fulfillment.” (p46) There is an initiation and an end, after which you know you have just had an experience worthy of being label esthetic. It is this “esthetic quality that rounds out an experience into completeness and unity (and causes us to be) emotional.” (p48)
Concluding her thoughts on her encounter with this Sicilian man, Gilbert states that “…the appreciation of pleasure can be an anchor of one’s humanity…” (location 2298)
I believe that it is through this type of appreciation for and seeking of pleasure in artful ways that we can truly experience life and become whole people: complete in our own individual selves as well as an effective contributors to our communities.
What artful pleasure do you seek and appreciate?