Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Art as Judge
Equal justice makes a society humane.
Regret prevents us from living meaningfully.
Beauty is on the inside or nowhere.
The bad guy should pay for his evil deeds.
Happiness at the expense of others is fragile and dangerous.
I've read several novels recently that have pointed a finger at me. You might think that I would find this a bit like wearing a wool sweater in July. Not at all. I enjoyed the experience immensely because the author didn't write about an issue but about characters, fully developed and real, living inside the issues, wrestling with complex moral questions within the context of enthralling stories.
I noticed that in each story the stakes--emotional, psychological, or physical--were high. Squirmy high. Nose-bleed high.
I just finished reading The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman. A childless couple (2 miscarriages and one stillbirth) live on a rock of an island off the coast of southwestern Australia. The husband keeps the lighthouse. The wife considers a life without children as a great black void. But...a dinghy comes to shore with a wailing infant and a dead man. The dutiful husband is eager to make a report. The wife convinces him to wait, and then to take the child as their own. On their first trip to shore nearly two years later, they discover that the mother is alive. And so the working out of the moral premise begins.
Great story. It made me ask if I was living happily at the expense of others. Not comfortable to ask or answer.
Has art dared to judge you? What questions has art asked that made you squirm? Are you buying this moral presumption thing?