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7 Things I Paid Attention to This Week #014
I'm back, baby... is AI destroying us?
Hello, my friends!
Hope everyone is well? I was out of town most of April and still catching my breath. Much to be thankful for, and much to pay attention to...
Here are seven things I paid attention to this week:
1. Philosopher James K.A. Smith reflects on how to answer the question: What is your favorite poem/music/book/film? Here is his excellent answer:
“My aesthetic appreciation is promiscuous and ranging, fickle and changing–which is just another way of saying I'm a human being and there's so much beauty in the world. I could never identify my "favorite" film or novel or poem because what I need and receive from art is so varied, like my almost infinite hunger. I might love this film for the exquisite performances that crack open the human soul, and I might love that movie because the cinematographic tableau is mesmerizing and pulls me into the light. I might enjoy this poem because it is so playful, and that poem because of its formal bravado that makes me wake up to language again.
All these works of art mean in so many different ways. They keep emitting new significance like the sun, and I keep coming back to them because new gifts await.
And, thanks be to God, people keep making such remarkable things that add to the richness of the cosmos–the alchemy of a new song, the hues of a new painting, a novel that does something with plot and form I never could have imagined before–how could I imagine that the question of a "favorite" is settled for me? Keep them coming! My heart has room for all you.” (From Image newsletter, May 6, 2023)
This brilliantly summarizes what we’re tying to do at The Art of Paying Attention. Once we determine our “favorites,” we have little room for new favorites, little room for more paying attention, and little room for more beauty. May our hearts make room for it all…
2. In the spirit of the above quote, let me share some “favorites” of late in the world of books. If you want a story about the power of stories, please take and eat: Everything Sad is Untrue. I’d also recommend a beautiful novel by Saint Kent Haruf: Our Souls at Night. I’ve recommend this one before, but it’s a beautiful depiction of our incessant desire for love even in old age. It’s sparse and haunting and moving.
3. I’ve come to love poetry more and more in the last five years. It’s taken years to “get it” but I’m all in. Christian Wiman is a favorite poet and rereading these two collections is worth the effort: Joy and Every Riven Thing. I also recommend T. S. Eliot’s 4 Quartets. I spent hours working through these poems with a group of friends and it was a great exercise.
4. Ear Candy: always much to behold in the music genre. Digging this album based on C. S. Lewis’ book Wormwood by the Oh Hellos. A little Beach Boys and Fleet Foxes vibes. Speaking of former drummers in the Fleet Foxes. Father John Misty is always in high rotation. His cover of Arcade Fire's Suburbs is brilliant. Anything in the Motown family is essential listening.
5. Eye Candy: how about a few TV shows and films? We are living in a Golden Era of TV and brilliant films are always being made. But you have to pause and marvel at John Hughes films for a second. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off captures teenage life and holds up (IMHO). I now have a teenager. Hughes films could be more diverse (ethnically/socio-economically), but the films say a lot. I recently watched the film The Whale and stirs up much reflection on how we love our neighbors. The show Beef is a meditation on happiness and the American Dream (for good and ill). Moving in unexpected ways, and a great 90s soundtrack. Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad do much of the same. Succession is one of the better shows in the last twenty years. Depicts how power corrupts and what happens when people are only valuable by what they accomplish or by how competent they are. Take and watch.
6. Convince me AI is going to be a good thing? A friend shared the ways AI will destroy music. My deeper question comes from Alan Jacobs that in our desperation to make things quickly and efficiently with technology, we lose the intrinsic value of making. And Then? If you don’t enjoy writing, or making music, or discovering and sitting with things, or aren’t curious about things and want to rush through everything, AI is for you. Or do something else.
7. A quote on the intrinsic value of art. Another reason it works on different levels and “gifts” people in different ways.
“The intrinsic value of a piece of art consists of what can’t be determined by numbers. The most difficult one to pin down, the intrinsic (or inherent) is a highly subjective emotional value, connected to how a specific work of art makes the viewer feel, what sensations it provokes, and, of course, this can’t be held or shown. Furthermore, all these variables depend upon cultural background, education, and personal life experience. and are rather independent of materials employed.”
Grace, peace, and more grace...