Synchronizing heart and mind to better ends requires inspiration, which is the stirring toward an elevated plane of feeling or action. Literally to “breathe in,” inspiration breathes life into our aspirations.
Art often abets this enlightenment. Classical tragedy was a religious experience integral to Athenian identity. Audiences grieved together, providing cathartic reconciliation to the will of the gods through struggle.
Nineteenth century English poets helped expose the immorality of the slave trade, and Joseph Conrad’s, "Heart of Darkness" shed light on the horrors of imperialism ignored by multitudes of middle class prudes who indirectly and luxuriously benefited from it.
Today, whether a film inspires solitary tears, a poem ignites sensual rapture, or music religious ecstasy, art’s power remains obvious. Live concerts provide communal aesthetic enjoyment and occasional platforms for societal change.
How else is aesthetic power over mind and heart wielded today? Past and current books and films galvanize action and debate on myriad issues. But sensationalist battles over our political affiliations or for our preferences in shampoo or cereal clamor most loudly. As with anything provocative, art can inspire hate. But it’s easy to become passive vessels for ubiquitous entertainment and ready-made opinions.
Not all of us are liberal arts students with excellent opportunities to read, learn, and act together to improve our world. I often say we should read widely on our own. But that isn’t enough. It’s important to find others to read with you. Discuss, struggle, grow, and apply.
I'm Bill Gahan, and that's my perspective.