Recently, I watched an interview with a fascinating opera singer, Anthony Roth Costanzo. He's a countertenor (a rarity - a man who sings in the range of a mezzo soprano) and when asked about his art in the wider context of world affairs he recounted a conversation he'd had with a friend (not an opera fan!) who was a legal ambassador in Iraq, trying to make peace in a war zone. Anthony had just been fretting about how he could have sung something better had he just got the shape of the vowel right.
His friend said: "You spend all your day thinking about the shape of a vowel and there are people dying.... there are important things happening in the world", implying that Anthony should get a grip along with some much needed perspective on his trivial 'problems'. He then spent a long time wondering about this and what his role in the world is as an opera singer and artist.
Do societies and communities that have art as part of their world have a better harmony and understanding between people? Do we all benefit from feeling heightened emotions when hearing music or seeing beautiful art? Can we reconcile the pursuit of this elevated art form whilst wars rage in distant countries?
I think it should not only be reconciled, but we can all aspire to it. We are incredibly privileged if we live a life where we don't just try to survive, but we actually get a chance to live life as fully as possible. We get to make or listen to beautiful music, we get to create art or have it in our homes for the sake of making us feel good and to give us something beautiful to look at and think about. Some of us even get to perfect the shape of a vowel to get the most sublime sound which moves others to tears. That is a level of existence way beyond mere survival and it can be considered a luxury. Something that’s arguably valueless yet priceless.