Why do most of us only turn to inspirational art on exceptional days?

There are few human beings who aren’t be lifted up by a beautiful, swelling piece of orchestral music. Even non-religious people can appreciate the poetry of the Hebrew Psalms. And if you meet someone who doesn’t get fired up by Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech, they are a rare human indeed.

These works of art inspire us on the days that are especially hard – when we’re fired, when a disaster comes to our door, when enemies seem to surround us. We hear and see and feel this art, and we’re suddenly somehow transformed into people capable of handling situations which seem beyond our power. They help us not to give up when it counts. 

Why would we leave this transformation for just a few special days? All of our “normal” days are the ones on which we’re most likely to give up.

That giving up may not be obvious. It will look like a slackness. It will be a lack of drive. It will be a fire gone out. It will be the bare minimum instead of above-and-beyond. It will be repetition instead of originality. It will be duty instead of desire.

However giving up looks for us, most of us reach a point in a day-in, day-out life of work and striving where we do lose hope. It doesn’t look dramatic. Our hope ends with a whimper, not a bang. And this loss of hope comes every few weeks, or it stays with us for weeks on end.

It’s the exceptional situations that are easier to face. It’s easier to be brave in the face of challenges that will disappear in a day. It’s easier to act swiftly in the face of urgent situations.

Sprinting is easy. The marathon takes the most heart. True heroism happens in the mundane day to day of our work and our lives. It consists primarily of not giving up hope – or acting despite lost hope. Our speeches, our art, our poetry all have to help us along that marathon.

In the end, we need to get rid of the category of “inspirational” art all together. All art should breathe into us in a way that makes us want to act more noble, more brave, more justly – even if we’re just showing up for our normal 9 to 5.

Categories: Art

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