I know that right now, I should be working - my workload this week is going to be immense, and by Thursday, I'm going to be completely fried. However, in this moment of relative calm, I have a few thoughts that have been dancing in my head, aching to get out. So here goes:
Art and Communication - I had an amazing conversation the other day with someone who works in the advertising field about subliminal advertising. In essence, good advertising is subliminal - it plays to your emotions in subtle ways to get you to buy the product. For instance, red and yellow, apparently, are colors that make you hungry. So as a result, all fast food joints use red and yellow in their color scheme. Then I bought a painting from a nice young fellow by the name of Tyler Cristobal - my first purchase of a painting ever (and so now I have one thing on my living room wall). And overall, I really like the painting - not just because it was cheap, but because, like a dream, it stirs up a bunch of thoughts all at once.
Anyway, all of this brings me back to an old concept I remember talking to my roommate in college about - that art is communication. The best artists - be they writers, painters, sculptors, actors or advertisers - can communicate a wealth of thoughts and feelings in a single moment. Its why when we come across great art, we are immediately struck - our minds are trying to figure out the entirety of the message. When we come across bad art, we immediately forget it - there's nothing for our minds to consider. Interestingly enough, it is commercial art that is the most self-aware of this aspect. I suspect its because commercial art isn't driven by artistic desire, but by cold, hard cash.
Religion and Extremism - My oldest and one of my dearest friends, consistently posts on Facebook about Islamic extremism across the globe. While I don't like Islamic extremism anymore than the next liberal, I think his focus on Islam is somewhat misplaced. The truth is, the extremists of all religions are equally problematic. And, it doesn't really matter what the religion is, either. For instance, Christianity is truly a religion of peace - to the extent that when faced with imminent death, Jesus Christ healed the wounds of his attackers after they arrested him. Yet, as you look throughout history, Christians have committed atrocity after atrocity literally in the name of Jesus Christ. Similar examples can be found in literally every religion.
Now, don't get me wrong, Muslim extremists - from the Saudi clerics, to the Taliban, to the Iranian regime, are all repressive douchebags. But, they're not repressive douchebags because they are Muslims, they're just douchebags. The problem with focusing on their religion is that its too easy for douchebags to dismiss the criticisms as chauvinism, and it serves to ignore douchebaggery in our own religions. Of course, there are some religions more likely to be subject to extremism than others, but the nature of worship tends to get people to accept all kinds of douchebaggery.
That said, religion is not necessarily a bad thing. A kernel of faith to help through the bad times, and religion fills a deep seated need of all people to connect with something greater than themselves.