I can enjoy fast food as much as anyone. Sometimes a MacDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Chik-Fil-A sandwich is exactly what I am craving. And fast food can be a quick answer when I don't have much time and just want some immediate satisfaction and a way to deal with my hunger. It is predictable, and rarely very memorable. But what I don't get from fast food is the experience of a deep enjoyment of interesting and surprising flavors. There is nothing to slowly savor. And a few days later, it's not likely I'll be thinking about that great meal I had.
But it's different with a gourmet meal, one that has been carefully prepared to offer a real dining experience. That can stay with me for days!
The same kind of decision confronts us when we think about feeding our souls with the arts. Do we settle for a steady diet of cultural fast food that mostly just provides us with a little diversion, relaxation, and entertainment? Art that is "kills some time," but doesn't have much lasting effect on the health of our soul? It can be fine in moderation. I enjoy listening to some catchy popular music, watching movies that make me laugh or offer thrilling special effects, or revisiting the television shows that let me really get to know some characters of the course of a few seasons. Nothing wrong with that. But is that enough artistic nourishment for my life? I don't think so.
I have to ask myself: Why settle for a steady diet of fast food culture when we have available to us the work of the great master chefs of the imagination--writers, painters, musicians, filmmakers--who have cooked up for us spiritual, intellectual, and emotional meals of substance, spicing them with surprising and unforgettable flavors? Enjoying great art is like partaking of a really fine gourmet meal. We can slow down and savor it, lingering over it, and nourishing ourselves with the exquisite beauty and insight it provides. And days later we'll still be thinking about it.
I'm planning to see the new James Bond movie for a little fast food pleasure, but I'm going to balance that by giving another listen to Schubert's "Trout Quintet" and scanning through my book of Chagall reproductions. I want to continue to be nourished by wonderful gourmet art.
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