By Bill McFadyen
We encounter great balance in the universe. The sun and the moon balance the day and the night in our lives that are marked by moments of laughter and of tears. Yin and Yang volley back and forth like the pendulum of the grandfather clock. So it is that this issue addresses life’s balance through Arts and Technology.
My household is one of symmetrical balance. My wife plans her every day. She wakes with a mission envisioned at minimum the day before. I awake with very little knowledge of what will befall me that day. I am impulsive, perched on life’s limb waiting to pounce on what the day sends by. She would be the Technology of our marriage; I would be the Art.
Art in its classical sense began with our oldest relatives. Long ago, hairy humanoids wearing bear skins invented stick figures and depicted them on stone canvass as they cast spears into what would later become the very overcoat that artist was wearing. (In a nod to Technology, those same stick people live tens of thousands of years later on minivans worldwide.) Rembrandt and Renoir are their direct descendants. Episodic moments in life are recorded for all to see.
Art is easily recognized in musical instruments that produce individual notes, and those notes blend together to form harmonious sound. Some of those collected notes, like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, live in our brain for the duration of our time here. My father said it was not so harmoniously recognizable when it clanged up the stairway sweeping in front of it the voice of Alice Cooper, but is that any different from what would surely be the Caveman’s predictable disdain to a Picasso? Time passes; we push limits; normalcy changes.
Technology first took shape in human history when a fast-moving, lightning-inspired prairie fire charred to death some pre-historic jack rabbit. Its medium-rare corpse was thereafter discovered by some unsuccessful (and therefore naked) bear hunter. The rabbit smelled differently from the one of last week that his family ate raw, surprisingly more pleasant even. After making sure no one else was looking, he tasted it, despite the blackened stuff around the edges, and (in what was very likely the birth of mathematics) two and two were put together in his mind. Or even more likely, he came back to the cave confused, told his wife about it, and she invented both mathematics and roasted red meat while he continued laboring in his mental haze. Thus, fire led to master chefs. Spears led to Parker shotguns. Language matured in literature. Why, before we knew it, there was a loaf of sliced bread right there on the table next to the printing press.
Fayetteville embraces the Arts. In its more conventional sense, the Special Ops Museum stands a couple of blocks from where we hear the Festival Park concerts. The Fayetteville Symphony showcases the best of our musicians while the local schools develop the next crop of future tuxedo-wearers in band concerts and orchestra performances. A commitment to music education starts in the Cultural Arts Department in the County School Administration. It thereafter goes on public display in football stadiums, school auditoriums, and even in the middle of Hay Street during the annual Christmas Parade.
Our community is not without its Technological high-water marks. This year, I stood in a 12,000 square foot warehouse near Fort Bragg watching as a technician performed maintenance on a million dollar camera that provided crystal-clear night vision around the compound of soldiers based in Afghanistan. He could zoom in across the back of a seven-acre field in the fading afternoon light, such that I could tell that the subject pine tree was a loblolly, not a long leaf, from the clarity of the needles on a limb. In the private sector, we have entire businesses here in town dedicated to nothing but innovative advancements of the computer age.
We can be a sleepy little town, though. Whether snoozing or advancing as a community, Yin and Yang accompany us still, even those of us who long for the good old Mayberry days of yore. We generally long for them while sitting in front of our flat screen television in a climate-controlled room, but we long for them all the same. For instance, I recently inherited my boyhood self-portrait, drawn in my living room by some patient artist while I was supposed to be sitting still. There I am, frozen in his art work for all time, smiling all cherubic in my good clothes and holding a choo choo engine. Today, I gaze upon the blended colors and it takes me back to a simpler time. My nostalgic meandering can only be interrupted by the buzzing of my cell phone as my daughter texts me from the back bedroom wanting to know if we have any ice cream.
In that moment, it strikes me that Art and Technology have blended together for even country-old-me on a late evening in Eastover in the simplest of life’s moments. Yes, to mention Art with a capital “A” sparks visions of The Louvre or The Smithsonian. Art, though, is something drastically closer to home, found clipped on or magnetically connected to refrigerators all across the modern world. Some Art in our time is born in an instant through the Technology of the cell phone, self-portraits being conceived and delivered to the world on Snap Chat, only to die mere moments after their birth. Art and Technology are permanently with us, even if the products of our labor do not have permanence of their own.
I like having ownership of my self-portrait, commissioned by my mom in an effort, successfully I suppose, to make my boyhood’s time stand still. In comparison thereto, I have thus far failed my family. We do not have that traditional art work, drawn with all of its sentimentality, invoking that warm and fuzzy that Art so often does. It is not too late, though. Most of my friends have them in their houses, so getting the name of just the right artist will not be that hard. It does require some planning, so arranging it will be a task better suited to my wife. The finished product though, I can see already - a portrait hung lovingly over the fireplace, displacing the blue marlin canvass that hangs there now. Our three beautiful children, comfortably huddled in familial proximity in our study, grand piano in the background, each child holding their own iPhone, texting Mom and Dad wanting to know how much longer they are required to sit there.
Art and Technology will comfort us even in our old age.