Who Art Thou?

Did I mention I went to Detroit for the first time earlier this year? I went there to hang out with four of my best friends, and I got to give a reading in the meantime (I read "Beachtrip 2008 (a Rerun)" from earlier in this blog.

While we were there, we took a trip to see The Heidelberg Project. Check it out online if you haven't yet. Part of it looks like a fantasyland of things you lost in childhood. Part of it looks like a green horse's nightmare. All of it is fascinating.

We got a chance to meet the creator of the installation. Tyree's his name. We said, "Nice to meet you, Tyree."

Tyree said, "What is art?"

We said, "Well, it could be any number of things."

Tyree said, "Oh? What is art?"

As the only non-Ph.D. in the group, I stood around looking especially stupid, even stupider than my normal stupid. You could almost say it was a moment of highly advanced stupidity. I said nothing, and never once for an instant backtracked, qualified, or wavered. And nobody argued with me. Nor were they qualified to.

My friends said all kinds of passionate, brilliant, compelling, mind-blowing things. They quoted Aristotle and Marcel Duschamp and Woody Allen. They wrote treatises and manifestos on napkins and the backs of their hands. I didn't understand a word of it. Not a single word.

On the other hand, it did remind me of the time we overheard Sam and his buddy (both ten at the time) in a heated debate. In reference to a Shakespeare quote, Sam said, "Well of course we know that 'thou' means 'you,' but we still don't know what 'art' is."

And, of course, that recalls the words of the great 21st century philosopher William Clinton who famously posed: "Well, that depends what your definition of 'is' is." A question so astute he didn't even bother putting it in the form of a question. Nor did he add a question mark.

So, anyway, that's what has been on my mind throughout most of lunch this morning: what is art, who art you, and what is is? The three great questions of this life.

At this point, obviously, my kids would have great answers to this, but they still haven't figured out the question to my Jeopardy answer: "He sang 'Mrs. Robinson' with Paul."

Answers to these and / or other questions coming soon.

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