Seeing With a Diversity of Eyes, Revisited: Imagination Is a Brush We Can Use to Paint Our Way Anywhere, Even Home

It all began one evening when I got totally engrossed in viewing Japanese woodblock prints, especially the night scenes by Kawase Hasui. Hasui was one of Japan’s most prominent and prolific printmakers, who died in 1957. He created landscapes that beautifully merged humans⎼ their homes, boats, shrines, castles, and temples⎼ into the land around them.

 

I was looking through several paintings and when one stood out, I’d imagine myself in the depicted scene or sit with the mood the print and my seeing of it created.

 

One night scene was of the Chuson-ji Temple in Japan. A long series of wide steps led up through trees to the temple. There was moonlight and a bright star, but no moon. I slowed down, stopped rushing, and just lingered on the scene, let my eyes feel the steps so I could walk up them in my imagination and reach the building itself.

 

Then I closed my eyes and let the scene rest inside me, before opening them again to allow new details I had missed earlier to enter the picture. By touching in this mindful way, we are touched; we feel what we see. The artwork is perceived with more dimension. I learned this practice at a retreat organized by psychotherapist Lawrence Leshan.

 

Later that night, I drove into town to buy groceries. Along the way, I noticed the scenery took on a totally new quality. The homes surrounded by trees, the lights amidst the dark, the moon over the hillside⎼ one minute, the scene before me was the physical road, buildings, and trees. The next, a beautiful portrait of the same.

 

In the afternoon a few days later, a similar experience occurred. As I walked up a rural road, I saw as I might normally see⎼ light breaking through the hillside forest roof and bouncing off tree leaves ⎼ and then as Hasui might paint it. By viewing the art, my eyes were tuned to beauty; I now had two sets of eyes, two ways of seeing.

 

Hasui seemed fascinated with not just art as a creation, but vision itself. He painted the same scene in different seasons and times of day. There are at least three renditions of the Chuson-ji Temple, for example⎼ one at night, one on a spring day, another in the snow. But what we see in each painting is one moment, or each instant as a once in a lifetime event.

 

The beautiful temples Hasui painted were not just an external scene he perceived but an element of the artist, his society, history, mood, the time of day, the weather and quality of light. We are not a being locked in a wall of skin, but one movement in a universe dancing itself into being.

 

Sometimes, we get caught up in what we see or hear. Our focus becomes possessive and exclusive. The object we see over there reinforces the sense of a separate me over here. And we lose appreciation for the very act of seeing or hearing, or the fact we can perceive or know anything at all. We lose the mystery of it. Studying how we perceive, being mindful, can remind us to notice, and look beyond what we see in order to enjoy the act of seeing. That we see can be as miraculous as what we see.

 

Exercises looking out a window:

Is it possible to perceive each artwork as a window or a door to a hidden place in ourselves, or the universe, like C. S. Lewis’ wardrobe doorway to Narnia? Just like a painting might be framed, a window frames the world for us to view with care and attention.

 

Here are exercises we can use to expand our appreciation of art and perception. We can do them for ourselves or share them with students. Before we share them, we first practice them ourselves. We feel and reflect on how they affect us. We imagine each individual child doing it. Many of us are struggling now with painful traumas and loss. We need to develop trauma sensitive eyes and hearts. We need to hold our children and ourselves with hands of empathy and compassion….

 

*To read the whole piece, please click on the link to Education That Inspires.

 

**This blog is an expanded revisiting of one I wrote last year for The Good Men Project.

***Before doing any of the exercises, please consult the links for fuller explanations.

The Language of Moods: Tuning Our Ears to Hear the Heart of the World in Our Heart

When I was 19 and deeply involved in trying to figure out who I was, I heard a lecture by the philosopher of eastern religions, Alan Watts and read several of his books. He helped change how I felt about life.

 

When I thought ahead to the future, it seemed so big. A vast number of days, and a huge weight to carry. So many questions: how do I decide on a career? What should I do with all this time I have? How can I do some good? Thanks to Watts and others, especially to a few inspiring teachers, instead of a life of tasks and burdens mixed with occasional pleasures, I began to see depth and beauty; began to realize how my own response, attitude, and openness shaped the reality I experienced.

 

Three books by Watts stand out for me. The first: The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. The second: The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for An Age of Anxiety. The subtitle of the latter book, published in 1951, is certainly an appropriate label for today.

 

In another book, The Way of Zen, Watts not only explains his view of Zen history and practice but introduces the reader to four different moods often found in and characteristic of Zen and Japanese arts. It was a new thought for me that a philosophy could be expressed in a few distinct moods. These moods are, in Japanese, sabi, wabi, aware (a-wa-re), and yugen.

 

Understanding these moods can reveal unexpected ways to live life more directly and skillfully. The Way of Zen describes how the arts can be a way of practice and gives examples of poetry brewed in the four moods. Especially in these troubling times, when I read these poems, my mind and heart settles and comes alive. I discern better how to respond with strength even to the toughest situations and feel appreciation and gratitude for so much I have been given. These moods also reveal different ways and stages of meditation practice.

 

When we look at the breadth of the future, we can get lost. To make a decision, it helps to feel the truth of what is in and around us. There isn’t an infinity of moments ahead of us, only one.

 

As much as I understand it, Sabi, according to Watts, is when we get quiet and feel detached from our usual concerns⎼ worries, social media, plans, and expectations. Silence is not the absence of sound or thought, but being present, not judgmental or grasping, to sound and thought. We focus, for example, on one breath at a time, one place, one thing. We can see anything or “all things as happening ‘by themselves’ in marvelous spontaneity.” The poet, translator, Lucien Stryck called sabi, “…the feeling of isolation at the midpoint of an emotion when it is both welcome and unwelcome, the source of ease and unease…” It is the recognition of beauty in asymmetry, imperfection, and the yearning to go beyond a superficial understanding.

 

Wabi, I think, is similar to sabi. It is a sense of simplicity and purity. Watts said the mood can arise when we feel sad or depressed and we notice the uselessness of much of our concerns. We catch a glimpse of the ordinary in its “incredible suchness.” The sincerity. Stryck said it is the feeling of something previously ignored now seen as precious. This very moment is all we have. The ordinary is no longer ordinary. The philosopher and environmentalist Henry David Thoreau spoke of being “self-sufficient with an insufficiency of things.”

 

It’s the simple that will save us. It has been said that we can’t take our money or possessions with us into death. We can’t take anything, except what’s in us at that moment. How can we accept this moment is gone before we even recognize it’s here? …

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

Visual Art as the Entranceway to the Ancient Caves of Humanity: Alone, Yet in the Embrace of Everything

Since the pandemic began, I’ve had this impulse to look at, or hang on the walls of my home, new pieces of art. Sometimes, they’re pages from an old book or museum calendar or one I created myself; sometimes, a piece from a dealer or a work by someone I love. I take a walk every day, look at whatever seems beautiful, trees, roads, hills, brooks, buildings, animals, and people. And with art this sense of beauty can come inside with me.

 

And there’s something more. Something about aging, relationships, and life itself, or life in a time of great crisis, that eludes understanding yet is motivating this impulse.

 

I’ve written about art before. So have thousands of others. Art is one blessing we can all share. No matter how hard we look at, think, or feel about an artwork, it keeps on evoking something new⎼ or it can. One look, one realization sets the stage for the next.

 

There is an infinite depth to any perception, as any perception takes place in and is influenced by an infinite number of factors, or by the universe itself. It is this infinite depth that art can access. So the English poet William Blake, in his poem Auguries of Innocence, wrote the famous lines: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wildflower.”

 

I look at this woodblock print by the Japanese artist Kawase Hasui which hangs on the wall of my bedroom. It is called The Inokashira Benten Shrine in Snow. I love this piece. It is so detailed. It depicts a snowstorm over an old Buddhist Shrine that sits next to a pond that over a hundred years ago stood at the head of the source of Edo’s (now Tokyo’s) drinking water. Each snowflake stands individually by itself, and then floats into the whole. I feel as if I could enter the scene, become another detail in it, or feel the artist as he painted it.

 

Maybe each artwork is a door to a hidden place in ourselves, or the universe, or the artist’s vision. Like C. S. Lewis’ wardrobe doorway to Narnia. Or a window; just like a painting might be framed, a window frames the world for us to view with care and attention. And I feel that if I can mount such windows and doors on my walls, I will never be lonely or bored. An adventure will always be available to me. One minute, the world might be tired or threatening. The next, it shines brightly.

 

Years ago, I bought a piece of Buddhist art, a slice of shale with a Buddha painted on it. It is a reproduction of a painting from a cave in Southeast Asia. When I slow down and let my eyes linger on it alone, focusing on the whole piece; then a detail; then back again, the scene expands, taking on dimensionality. I feel what I see. The Buddha stands there for a moment in 3-d.

 

Art was probably created just for this sort of purpose. When we let go of our focus on ourselves for a moment, our plans, concerns, and beliefs, art can help us see the world in more dimensions. That’s why, throughout the centuries, it was closely tied to religion and spirit. One of the greatest visual works of art ever was The Creation of Man (Human) painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, by Michelangelo….

 

*To read the whole post, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

 

**Photo is from the cave created by students in our school.

Art, Cats, Windows, and Doorways: The Opening that We Are

Last weekend, my wife and I went to a local museum, The Johnson Art Museum at Cornell University. After almost two years of COVID, going to a museum was something new and original.  We were fully masked, and socially distant from other people, but not from the art. The art was not infected, although we were cautioned not to touch it, for reasons other than medical. It was so freeing to let ourselves go, and mentally and emotionally step into the painting or the prints or the photos or whatever.

 

A museum is not a collection of static things. Maybe someone could look at the pieces collected there and think, this is just a colorful piece of cloth or paper, an image, or a photo. But most seemed to stop and feel.

 

Each artwork is the result of an intensely lived moment, day, year, or lifetime. Just consider the inspiration, skill, sweat, emotions, memories ⎼ the living that goes into the art. The artist’s joy, insight, pain, and suffering. The intense focus. So, one way to experience the art is as a sharing or opportunity. A question or invitation. “Will you take this from my hands? Will you be here with me? Can you help? Can you leap into this moment?”

 

The possibilities in art are endless. One exhibit at the museum was called Women Making Their Mark. It included an amazing book of papercuts titled Freedom, a Fable, by Kara Walker telling of a black woman’s emancipation from slavery only to realize the oppression continues.

 

In the exhibit on Art and Environmental Struggle there was a painting by Abel Rodriguez called El Arbol de La Vida y Abundancia, a beautiful proclamation of the interwoven and interdependent human, plant and animal world.

 

There was also a piece called We Dreamt Deaf, by Nicholas Galanin. This is a taxidermed standing polar bear transmogrified into a rug, a very disturbing version of a hunter’s trophy. I don’t have accurate enough words to express how I felt. The horrors we humans can inflict on others. The pain. And the grief for our world, the tears and anger the art can invoke.

 

And on the top floor of the museum, there are giant windows facing north, west, and south, revealing the lake, hills, and valleys of the area. And in between those windows, a different exhibit, of Japanese, Tibetan, Chinese, Indian, and Persian art, mostly art of spiritual enlightenment. And out the windows, two hawks were gliding above the trees….

 

**Please go to The Good Men Project to read the whole piece.

Love and Compassion Are the Other Faces of Beauty

I look out the window of our den and notice the standing Buddha in the garden has a hat of moss, of both a light and dark green with a lighter tone on the right side of his nose. He also has a shawl of moss over his robes. Does it keep him warm? His smile is so calming and clear it draws me in. Then he seems to dance, or is it breathe, or maybe the whole scene is breathing as my eyes dance over him.

 

My breath and his are after all the same breath.

 

He looks so beautiful to me. Is this what beauty is, a quality of me or a way of relating to something or someone else, a quality of focus, attention, or breathing? A drawing in. And can everything in this scene or anything anywhere that draws us in be touched like this? There is a large stone behind him ⎼ rust, grey, green, and shaped like a mountain. It also looks beautiful. What about the bush, the tree, the flowers, the weeds? In the right light, the Buddha looks bigger than a mountain. But why does he draw us in?

 

We say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Maybe it’s this quality of attention of the beholder in the specific moment. Right now, is beautiful. I had a plan for this morning, but the Buddha took it over. Or maybe beauty did that.

 

Buddhism and other traditions say the separation we often feel between ourselves and others, between us the seer and what we see, is an illusion. But what does that mean? Can we feel as if we were the statue breathing? Is that possible? And who wants to be a statue? Instead, maybe it means that we live each inch of space occupied by mind.

 

We see something and think that statue, that person, that dragonfly or flower or car is over there, and I am here. But what about the air an inch from my face? Or the pavement I am standing on? What about the suffering we see over there or the injustice? The thing or person next to me is next to me all the way to whatever. Why separate the me here from the you there, the eyes from the eyed? Why forget all that is there between us linking us? Don’t we live the world we breathe in?

 

Maybe we separate because there’s hurt here or there, and over and over we re-build a wall to shield us from the pain. We all have hurts. But the wall can be more like a suit of armor we wear wherever we go. And everything we try to touch has the wall, the metal suit, standing in the way. All we ever touch is the inside surface of our armor and so we feel that just on the other side and way too close, a battle is raging.

 

Gently, consciously, we can find a safe way to name what we feel, or find a place of comfort inside as well as outside ourselves. By doing this gently, mindfully, our mind becomes gentler, and we perceive more consciously, and clearly.

 

Constantly, we are switching perspectives back and forth….

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

 

One Gift of the Arts is Help Us See with A Diversity of Eyes

It all started one night after getting totally engrossed in viewing Japanese woodblock prints, particularly the night scenes by Kawase Hasui. Hasui was one of Japan’s most prominent and prolific printmakers who died in 1957. He created landscapes that beautifully merged humans⎼ their homes, boats, shrines, castles, and temples⎼ into the land around them.

 

I was looking through several paintings and when one stood out, I’d wonder why that was so. I’d imagine myself in the depicted scene or sit with the mood the print and my seeing of the print created.

 

One night scene was of the Chuson-ji Temple, in the town of Hiraizumi, Japan. A long series of wide steps leads up through trees to the temple. There is moonlight and a bright star, but no moon. I allowed myself to slow down, stop rushing, and just linger on the scene, to sort of let my eyes feel the steps so I could walk up them and reach the building itself.

 

Then I’d close my eyes and let the scene rest inside me, before opening them again to allow whatever new details I had noticed enter the picture. By touching in this mindful way, we are touched; we feel what we see. The artwork has more dimension. I learned this practice at a retreat organized by psychotherapist Lawrence Leshan, and by The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation, by Frederick Franck.

 

After doing this for a few hours, I drove into town to buy groceries. Along the way, the scenery took on a totally new quality. The homes surrounded by trees, the lights amidst the dark, the moon over the hillside⎼ one minute, the scene around me was the physical road and trees. The next, a beautiful portrait of the same.

 

A few days later, in the daytime, a similar experience occurred. As I walked up the rural road where I live, I saw as I might normally see⎼ light breaking through the hillside forest roof and bouncing off the leaves of the trees ⎼ and then as Hasui might paint it. By viewing the art, my eyes were tuned to beauty; I now had two sets of eyes, two ways of seeing.

 

Hasui seemed fascinated with how not just art was a creation, but vision itself. He was almost too prolific. He painted the same scene in different times of day and different seasons. There are at least three renditions of the Chuson-ji Temple, for example⎼ one at night, one on a spring day, another in the snow. But what we see in each painting is one moment; we see each instant as a once in a lifetime event.

 

We can see how everything changes or is change itself. Henri Bergson, a French philosopher, said: “Reality is flowing.  This does not mean that everything moves, changes, and becomes; science and common experience tell us that.  It means movement, becoming, change is everything there is, there is nothing else.  There are no things that move and change and become; everything is movement, is change.”

 

The beautiful red temples Hasui painted were not just an external scene he perceived but an element of the artist, his history and mood, the time of day, the weather and quality of light, the remnants of the past in the present. We are not a being locked in a wall of skin, but one movement in a universe dancing itself into being….

 

**To see the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

The Joy of a Tango in the Morning: Even Our Shadow Can Surprise Us

Despite the recent horrendous killings in Boulder and Atlanta,  there were two moments this week when somehow I broke out into a deep smile and dance. Somehow, we must find joy between the sadness.

 

There have been so many large scale downs and ups in recent years. January 6th was an historic down, January 20th an exciting up. Before the inauguration, I too often felt fright, anger, revulsion, grief and sadness about our world.  I had taken refuge from the viruses of DT and COVID in friendships, meditation, creativity, political action and exercise.  But this week, two seemingly small events turned moments of my life from a waltz to a tango.

 

The fact that it’s spring and it feels like multiple winters are ending at once certainly has turned up the volume on life. On Sunday, a blog of mine that referenced morning light and sounds was going to be published and I wanted a photo of the morning to put on my website. So I woke up and went for an early walk. I walked for maybe an hour and a half, taking twenty or so photos, not trying to capture but simply express the moment. And what a moment it was. The clear, almost baby blue of the sky. The freshness of it all. The expansiveness.

 

Part of the joy was the newness. I usually walk in the late afternoon, when the sun is already partly hidden by the hills. But not today. Today I was not caught up in doing things in the house or in cold shadows.

 

Over the last year, I have walked this road so many times, almost every single day, and the familiarity has transformed it into something else, not just a home, but a way of greeting myself. On a steep section of the road, a tree stood on the edge of the bank, three feet of roots exposed, it’s inside turned out. There is an old stone foundation just beyond the pine forest that was abandoned decades, maybe a century ago, a house-sized unknown reminding anyone who looked that even here, where now there is forest, there is a human past.

 

Sometimes, I get lost in thought as I walk. I’d remember passing an old tree that is half rotted, with a metal fence growing through its belly. And then I’m 200 feet up the road, in the oak and maple wood, where an old house lies snapped in half, like some giant named age and abandonment had just grabbed both ends and broke it in half over his knee. I take a few breaths and continue.

 

And then, around a bend in the road, between two trees, I saw my own shadow. It surprised me. It had been tailing me all along but because of the angle of the sun relative to the road I hadn’t seen it. Now, what had been behind me was in front. And my focus deepened. Any thoughts that arose sprouted into reminders to look around me at the snowdrops and other new flowers, or to listen to the sound of water running in the streams and ditches along the road….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

The Arts Are Essential for a Good Education

For several years now, starting in the late 1990s and escalating since the last recession, arts programs have been cut throughout the country. This is especially true with drama and dance, but is also true with music and visual arts. The cuts are even more severe in schools serving mostly poor and minority children. This is extremely shortsighted. For many children, the arts provide a doorway into learning and the motivation needed to graduate. It elevates school to a place where students can come alive and see their concerns and interests reflected in the curriculum. It provides a vehicle for developing creativity and imagination. Reports show that schools with “arts-rich learning environments outperform their peers in arts deficient schools.”

 

The arts provide a more direct entrance into understanding and caring about others than any other discipline. They provide unique lessons about personal identity and the power to affect others. A play or a novel, for example, takes the reader inside the mind of the characters. As such, the arts provide one of the best ways to embed compassion into the curriculum.

 

The arts, whether it be the ancient dramas of the Greeks or modern movies, teach us how to understand our world. The ancient Athenians recognized this clearly. They led a life amazingly social and public. Unlike us, who view our emotions as individual, personal and essentially hidden, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly claim that for the Greeks, “moods were public and shared.” Emotions were visitations by the gods of the community. Being so social, they needed a way to purge those emotions (other than going to war). They lived in a violent time. So, at the height of the Athenian democracy, citizens were paid to go to the theatre. ‘Catharsis’ comes from the Greek ‘katharis’ meaning purification or cleansing. According to Thomas Cahill, in earlier times in Greece, drama developed from a choral performance to staged action. There were only two parts in a play: the soloist, often in a costume and sometimes with a mask, who stepped onto the stage to tell a story, and the chorus itself, which would comment on the story and play the role of the community. The audience would listen reverently to the soloist but join in the choral responses, which they often memorized. It was a ritual. ‘Liturgy’ (‘leitourgia’ means the “work of the public”) was the Greek word for this interaction. Through feeling emotions evoked through the play, the audience was educated about how to live; stored up collective emotions were purged and social tensions relieved.

 

In an earlier blog, I talked about the mirror neuron systems and how communication is not just about expressing ourselves but connecting with others. A conversation takes at least two people; to speak with another person, you have to imagine or feel who the other person is or you can’t speak to them. When you try to speak and only hear your own voice, you are hearing the voice of disconnection, and the hunger for connection. A conversation without empathy is a monologue. The Greeks joined with others in liturgy. Today, you need to find your own way to make this connection.

 

Every fall, my school would produce a series of short or one act plays. The show was a greatly anticipated community event that lasted only one night and was coordinated with a fundraising spaghetti dinner. The theatre would often be full, standing room only. Student MCs would develop their own routines to introduce each play and whip up the enthusiasm of the audience. Especially in the earlier years, students would often write or improvise their own short plays. To the degree that the actors would feel and speak the part, the audience would live the story along with them. The energy was heightened for the audience by the fact that many were family or friends of the cast. I remember one night in particular. One of the actors was an extremely shy student who in ordinary life hardly ever spoke up. Yet here he was, striding boldly across the stage, a smile on his face. With every step that he took, the audience could feel him breaking free of his psychological inhibitions. They cheered him on, taking joy in his achievement. That was connection.

 

Keith Oatley takes this analysis a step further. Art allows us to not only feel what others feel, but feel without a layer of self-interest. When we watch a drama or movie or read a novel, we can identify with the protagonist, feel her feelings, yet also, in a more developed work of art, also feel for the antagonist. We can be interested yet impartial and thus have the opportunity to study the affects and moral dimensions of our emotions. In this way, the arts are a school for citizenship where we refine and enhance our capacity for empathy. Cut the arts and you cut one of our greatest tools for teaching students how to be moral, responsible, hopefully compassionate members of a community.

 

How do you teach the arts so empathy and compassion are emphasized?

 

[This is an updated version of an older blog.]

 

*The art is from Akrotiri, a 4,000 year old city on what is now Santorini, Greece.

Embedding Compassion In The Curriculum Part C: The Arts, Drama

Arts education is being cut in school districts throughout the country. This is extremely shortsighted. For many children, the arts provide a doorway into learning itself and the motivation needed to graduate. It makes school something more than mere work, but a place where students can come alive and see their lives reflected in the curriculum.

 

The arts provide a more direct entrance into understanding and caring about the experience of others than any other discipline. The arts provide unique lessons about personal identity and the power to affect others. As such, the arts provide one of the best ways to embed compassion into the curriculum.

 

The arts, whether it be the ancient dramas of the Greeks or our movies today, teach us about facing our world. For the ancient Athenians, the role of the arts, particularly drama, was clearly recognized. They led a life amazingly social and public. Unlike us, who view our emotions as individual, personal and essentially hidden, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly claim that for the Greeks, “moods were public and shared.” Emotions were visitations by the gods of the community. Being so social, they needed a way to purge those emotions (other than going to war). They lived in a violent time. So, at the height of the Athenian democracy, citizens were paid to go to the theatre. ‘Catharsis’ comes from the Greek ‘katharis’ meaning purification or cleansing. In fact, according to Thomas Cahill, in earlier times in Greece, when drama was developing from a choral performance to staged action, there were only two parts in a play: the soloist, often in a costume and sometimes with a mask who stepped onto the stage to tell a story, and the chorus itself, which would comment on the story and play the role of the community. The audience would listen reverently to the soloist but join in the choral responses, which they often memorized. It was a ritual. ‘Leitourgia’ (meaning “work of the public”) was the ancient Greek word for this audience-choral interaction and the origin of our modern word ‘liturgy.’ Through feeling the emotions evoked through the play, the audience was educated about how to live, and stored up collective emotions were purged and social tensions relieved.

 

In an earlier blog I talked about how communication is not just about expressing ourselves but connecting with others. A conversation takes at least two; to speak with another person, I have to imagine or feel who the other person is or I can’t speak to them. When we try to speak and only hear our own voice, we are hearing the voice of disconnection, and the hunger for connection. The Greeks joined with others in liturgy. Today, we have different practices.

 

In my school, in the fall, we always did a series of short or one act plays. The show became a greatly anticipated community event that lasted only one night and was coordinated with a fundraising spaghetti dinner. The theatre would often be full, standing room only. Student MCs would develop their own routines to introduce each play and whip up the enthusiasm of the audience. To the degree that the actors would feel and speak the part, the audience would live the story along with them. The energy was heightened for the audience by the fact that many knew the cast members personally. I remember one night. One actor was an extremely shy student who in ordinary life hardly ever spoke up. During the show he seemed to break free from some inner restraint and fully inhabited his role. He strode boldly across the stage and the audience cheered on each step that he took.  That was connection.

 

Keith Oatley takes this analysis a step further. Art allows us to not only feel what others feel, but feel without a layer of self-interest. When we watch a drama or movie or read a novel, we can identify with the protagonist, feel her feelings, yet also, in a more developed work of art, also feel for the antagonist. We can be interested yet impartial and thus have the opportunity to study the affects and moral dimensions of our emotions. In this way, the arts are a school for citizenship where we refine and enhance our capacity for empathy. Cut the arts and you cut one of our greatest tools for teaching students how to be moral, responsible, hopefully compassionate members of a community.