A Question of Boredom

Letter From London

Anybody who has ever watched a home video knows how painful is the passing of unedited time.  No matter what or who is the subject of the exposition—sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, deep conversation, one’s own or other people’s children, Osama bin Laden—time in the raw is all but unbearable.  Clearly, it is only through the faculty of art that one can ever grab hold of this amorphous, molasses-like mass of undifferentiated minutes and hours, infuse it with excitement, comeliness, and meaning, and refine it into some fragment of life more or less deserving of the name.  Which, incidentally, echoes the old gnostic contention that the great demiurge created the finite universe out of endless chaos principally for the purpose of his own entertainment.

Yet art is widely perceived as the domain of the irrational, the elemental, and the hermetic and is often, with much justification, held up in opposition to those other domains where reason, order, and clarity seem to hold sway.  And the art that made the world—at least in the eyes of anyone who has ever read a Russian novel, or heard a passage of German Romantic music, or regarded a modern painting with sympathy—is no exception.  For the world, in those anxious eyes, alas, bears hardly any resemblance to a Corinthian column or a leaf from Principia Mathematica.

Still, steadfastly though our world refuses...

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