Every now and then you see a performance, or a movie, or see a piece of art, or read a book, or hear a song… and it just makes you want to cry and cheer at the same time.
Know what I mean?
I keep an unofficial list of these in my head. They’re rare, but when they show up, it’s magical. I remember one particular painting I saw in Maui right after I graduated high school… I don’t even think I can describe it. It was this beautiful, angelic girl in a blazing dress of color that merged with both the sea and the sky. It was sort of impressionistic, but so vibrant I couldn’t take my eyes off of it… and that was the first time I decided I liked art. Before that I’d thought it was boring, but once I knew what it was *supposed* to feel like, I decided it was worth it to me to go to galleries full of pieces that didn’t interest me at all, in order to search for those few occasional outstanding ones that take my breath away.
I had a moment like that this weekend, when I went to see a touring production of “Newsies” at Centennial Hall. OH. WOW. Absolutely spellbinding. I almost did cry at several points (that weren’t sad at all), just because it was so triumphant, such a celebration of what people can achieve if they put everything they have into it, and pool their gifts. Seriously, the number of things that have to come together to bring something like that about left me in awe:
The set designs, so minimalistic (just some scaffolding they moved around for different scenes, a table and some chairs, and screens with projected images)… and yet they managed to convey so much with so little.
The storyline… underdog heroes who fight against the all-powerful publishing industry of their day not only for their own rights, but for the rights of child labor everywhere in turn-of-the-century NYC. It’s a story of something that matters, something that resonates, and the conflict seems so insurmountable…
The star-crossed love story of an heiress who defies her father (Pulitzer) and falls in love with the orphan boy who leads the Newsies strike.
The score! So catchy and rousing, with renditions of a few of them so much better than those that were in the movie (and I’d thought the movie was good)!
And the talent of those singers and dancers… I was trying to envision how many thousands of hours of rehearsal and years of study beforehand went in to making them the performers I saw that night. “They” say it takes 10,000 hours to master any one skill (I think I read that in a Malcolm Gladwell book at one point)… shame, because there are so many skills I’d love to master, but only so many 10,000 hours to go around. How young did they have to be before they decided, “This is what I want to devote my life to,” and then they went and did it? Did they look back? Did they second-guess? Or was it single-minded focus all the way?
In “Atlas Shrugged” (which I’m listening to in my car at the moment), Ayn Rand describes it this way. Her heroine, Dagne Taggert, appreciates the music of fictional composer Richard Halley with a passion not only for the music itself, but for what it represents. To her, it’s a celebration of the heights of man’s achievement. She equally appreciates achievements in other areas of study, too, though: the perfecting of a metal alloy; in building an efficient railroad; managing a business with excellence; a scientist who makes a staggering discovery. Rand describes more eloquently than I’ve ever heard before this same feeling that I’m struggling to articulate now—that depth of admiration for great human achievements.
I think what these things have in common is that they are all an act of creation. And I think the reason this moves me is because creating (and creating with excellence) is part of our design: in the book of Genesis, just after God finishes creating the heavens and the earth, he creates man and then says he is making him “in His image.” The context seems to imply that (perhaps among other things) we are to imitate Him as a creator. We, too, are made to create. And when I see someone living out of his or her design, it makes me want to applaud.
What kinds of art, or achievements in general, affect you in this way?
Jim Strawn says
I’m a romantic and big softie (you can ask anyone). I get choked up by excellence. It can be the arts, technology, sports, just about anything that is a result achieved by striving. It doesn’t have to be creative. Its doing the absolute best you can and surpassing your own expectations… or witnessing it in someone else. And that is how I think God wants us to imitate him.
C.A. Gray says
Totally agree, and I’m the same! Usually it’s art that moves me to tears, but excellence in any area definitely inspires awe, and comes from the same root.