Words Cannot Express

“Art is the lie that enables us
to realize the truth.”
Pablo Picasso

Since the death of Sean Connery a few weeks back, I’ve been rewatching all of the James Bond movies in chronological order. I noticed that the majority of the Bond movies were distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. I’ve been watching MGM movies my entire life but just now noticed the words, “Ars Gratia Artis” used as a motto by MGM and appears in the circle around the roaring head of Leo the Lion in its logo.

Curious lady that I am, I looked up the meaning of this Latin saying, Ars Gratia Artis which translates to, Art for Art’s Sake.  It is a phrase that dates back to poet Théophile Gautier from the 1800s. The phrase was also used by poet Edgar Allan Poe in his 1850 essay, The Poetic Principle.  These men argued that “. . . art for art’s sake affirmed that art was valuable as art in itself; that artistic pursuits were their own justification; and that art did not need moral justification, and was allowed to be morally neutral or subversive.”

With so many forms of art in our society, I dove even deeper into this subject and discovered writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton who is the founder of  The School of Life, where he examines the many purposes of art.

In Alain’s book, Art as Therapy he points out how art can be a form and a source of therapy and self-help. He explains how art has the ability to resolve our psychological shortcomings and ease our anxieties about our imperfections. Art can be used as a great tool that serves a complex important purpose in our existence. The highest achievement of art might be something that reconciles the two: a channel of empathy into our own psychology that lets us both exorcise and better understand our emotions.

There are many areas in our life that art enriches including how art helps us feel less alone in our suffering. de Botton believes art can also save us time as well as save our lives, through opportune and reminders of balance and goodness that we should never presume we know enough about already. He also says that art is our new religion and our museums are our cathedrals. We all have reasons for our tastes in particular works of art and that can reflect how we are feeling emotionally at particular times in our lives.

Art gives us a language for communicating to others. It can explain why we are so particular about the kinds of art we surround ourselves with publicly.  A sort of self-packaging we all practice as much on the walls of our homes as we do on our social media pages. A cynic might interpret this as mere showing off, but de Botton believes that the art we admire peels away this superficial interpretation to reveal the deeper psychological motive.

The art we admire can show our true desire to communicate to others the subtleties of who we are and what we believe in a way that words cannot express.

Shine On

Symbol of True Love

“Not a piece of architecture,
as other buildings are,
but the proud passions
of an emperor’s love
wrought in living stones.”
Sir Edwin Arnold 

There have been many men throughout the course of history who have shown their never-ending love for a woman. Wars were fought, duals lost, and many historical events took place because of a man’s love for a woman. But, there is one man who went beyond expressing his love and left behind something beautiful for all the World to enjoy and behold.

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan build the famous, Taj Mahal for his cherished and favorite of his three queens, Mumtaz Mahal. Sadly, in 1631 Mumtaz died after giving birth to the couple’s 14th child. The grieving Shah, ordered the building of a magnificent mausoleum across the Yamuna River from his own royal palace at Agra.

Construction of the enormous Taj Mahal, named in honor of his beloved wife, began in 1632 to house her remains. More than 20,000 workers from India, Persia, Europe and the Ottoman Empire, along with some 1,000 elephants, were brought in to build the mausoleum complex. It took over a 20-year period and is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. At its center is the Taj Mahal itself, built of shimmering white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones (including jade, crystal, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise) forming intricate designs.

Shah intended to build a second grand mausoleum across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, where his own remains would be buried when he died. The two structures would have been connected by a bridge. However, his third son Aurangzeb deposed his ailing father in 1658 and took power himself. Shah lived out the last years of his life under house arrest in a tower of the Red Fort at Agra, with a view of the majestic resting place he had constructed for his wife. He was buried next to his wife when he died in 1666.

Throughout the centuries the Taj Mahal fell into disrepair. Near the turn of the 19th century, Lord Curzon ordered major restoration of the mausoleum as an effort to preserve India’s artistic and cultural heritage. The other threat to the mausoleum was air pollution from nearby factories and automobiles which posed a continual threat to the mausoleum’s gleaming white marble façade. To protect the building from further deterioration, in 1998 India’s Supreme Court ordered a number of anti-pollution measures. Some factories were closed, while vehicular traffic was banned from the immediate vicinity of the complex.

In 2019, it was reported that over 3 million people a year (or around 45,000 a day during peak tourist season) visit the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal remains one of the World’s most celebrated structures and a stunning symbol of India’s rich history as well as a symbol of true love.

 Shine On