A worried man with a worried mind,/No one in front of me and nothing behind,/There’s a woman on my lap, and she’s drinking champagne./Got white skin, got assassin’s eyes,/I’m looking up into the sapphire tinted skies./I’m well dressed, waiting on the last train./Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose./Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose./People are crazy and times are strange,/I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range./I used to care, but things have changed.Bob Dylan, “Things Have Changed”
As much as we may try to ignore it or sensationalize it, we have a lot to worry our minds these days:
Skyrocketing inflation. Increases in the cost of living and healthcare. Growing unemployment and poverty. An increasing political, moral, and spiritual polarization among national social groups. An all-time high of public skepticism toward governmental, medical, and educational institutions. An intellectual civil war for the foundational philosophies used in public education and discourse. Racial tensions exacerbated by decades of ignorance and ignoring. A lingering pandemic and the inability of governmental leadership to address it consistently or well. A presidential election contested by an unusually large number of the public. War between Russia and Ukraine, and the resulting fear of nuclear warfare and World War III.
Most of us live in fear and feel justified in doing so. Hope may be down the road somewhere, but it is not just around the corner.
In times like these, many of us may see little need for art, for poetry. We may think we ought to turn our attention more toward philosophical pursuits such as politics and history. Let these occupy our minds. For now, perhaps we should only turn to art for a brief respite of entertainment. Yet, as Aristotle discussed in the Poetics, poetry is better than history or politics.
There is a hunger among us, a desire, for our national issues to be portrayed and remembered or memorialized through art in a non-partisan way, even a non-ideological way. It is to this that today’s artists should turn their attention.