Doing research

The other day at dinner with a friend I found myself engaged in that age-old debate: Are we here on this earth to live our lives, with the creation of art/aesthetics/beauty only a byproduct, an accident of evolution, or are we really here to create beauty, with our lives merely the framework to make such a thing possible?

My friend comes from China, and she said that the Chinese culture is very much in the former camp. The prevailing view of things there is practical, a series of real-world tasks and challenges, and people try to stay connected with the solidity and reality of a life lived day by day.

I, on the other hand, have lived most of my life in Manhattan, where the pervading ethos is arguably quite different. I remember reading, years ago, a description of New Yorkers. The writer said “When you walk down the street in New York, and you look into peoples’ faces, you realize that everybody is doing research.”

I thought that captured the essence of it splendidly. In our little corner of the Universe, there are many people for whom it is not at all about getting through the day, putting one foot in front of the other. Yes, of course those things are necessary, but they are not the reason people are here.

People are here to create, to encounter new ideas, to have the inspired conversations, hear the unexpected music, see the crazy art, and experience the wild theatre that are the life blood of this town.

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