Ono no Komachi: “How much longer must I carry this body of grief?”

“How much longer must I carry this body of grief,” Ono no Komachi laments. 

I hear her, though I do not see “the living grow fewer, the dead increase” yet.

I see aging, lost opportunities, regrets. There are those I knew whom I will never know again.

My losses are different. They do not have the same weight as the death of everyone near me. But they will have that weight, because that will happen.

No matter what, I am a body of grief too.

Untitled
Ono no Komachi (translation Hirshfield & Aratani)

In this world
the living grow fewer,
the dead increase—
how much longer must I
carry this body of grief?

*

Sometimes, you read a book, and you want a passage to leap out at you. Stay with you. Not like a kitten wanting hugs, but like an abstract painting in which you keep seeing different things at different moments.

This is one of those moments, I believe. I’m drawn to the opening of Nietzsche’s Genealogy:

“We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers: and for a good reason. We have never sought ourselves—how then should it happen that we find ourselves one day? It has rightly been said: “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”; our treasure is where the beehives of our knowledge stand.” (translation Clark & Swensen)

“We are unknown to ourselves…. We have never sought ourselves… how [then] should it happen that we find ourselves?” Nietzsche’s construction calls to mind Christ’s “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” a supremely challenging verse. A believer should want to take it literally—if I ask God, I should get what I want, no? Shouldn’t the faithful receive, especially when in need? The same believer also knows that moral truth and miracles don’t neatly coincide. That justice from God should be justice for all, not for some. That if God actually plays favorites, everything is doomed. It does feel like the great theme of the Bible is that evil is not beaten supernaturally.

Someone might say the solution to this problem is simple: never ask for anything. Don’t even expect justice in the appointed time. But if you’ve been alive for more than 10 minutes you know it’s not so simple. Many won’t ask for miracles unless they’re deathly afraid of loss. Unless they feel like they’re fighting for a chance, for the right to have something they can call a life.

There is grief prior to loving and losing. 

The ask, seek, knock triad changes into the question of the self (“unknown to ourselves”), a failure to seek oneself (“we have never sought ourselves”), and the speculation that perhaps one can find oneself. The problem of self-knowledge imposes upon a divine command. The tangible reality of knocking finds itself replaced by what sounds like most airy speculation: “how…should it happen that we find ourselves?”

There is, in both Nietzsche and Christ’s words, only a hint of the landscape of loss. There is instead the feeling of being lost, of disorientation. Still, Nietzsche, in putting together two sayings of Christ, gives what I believe to be a stronger hint. Where your treasure is, there is your heart, and that is where knowledge stands. 

We can add: what you must know is what burdens you.

*

“How much longer must I carry this body of grief?” How do the things we know—the things that compose us—hurt? How do we find any sort of peace?

The very phrase “in this world” is revealing. She perceives and attends because of love. This is not uncomplicated.

The living and dead she speaks are relative to her. She does not see the next generation come into being. But this does not sound embittered or closed to me. No rage like that of the old ideologue in “Sailing to Byzantium,” who complains about “the young in one another’s arms, birds in the trees.” His lament: “Caught in that sensual music all neglect / Monuments of unageing intellect.”

She can’t see the living beyond those she does see, but this signals her appreciation for those in her life. The absence of the dead is felt.

The last lines of Jean Valentine’s “The Harrowing,” I think, apply:

Blessed are those
who break off from separateness
 
theirs is wild
heaven.

Valentine’s lines, taken alone, almost sound like an ode to lust. In the full poem, I’d say its safe to say they’re about that, but also lost love, death, and imperfection. We do know people looking to marry the first person who likes them, who see a “wild heaven” in divorcing “separateness.” And I feel it’s appropriate to address that desire, given Ono no Komachi’s words about the fundamental loneliness of aging.

What I see is a beatitude hinting at how difficult breaking off from separateness is. So many couples—so many who are married—who have built their own separate world to make life hell for each other. If “wild heaven” were lust, there would be no lust, because lust would satisfy.

Genuine togetherness has a wholesomeness about it, but we bury that with nostalgia and images of perfect families from mass media. In reality, it has a hardness, a moral firmness, we don’t know how to discuss. (The worst discussion might be the wholly artificial standard for masculinity given by churches.) Moral firmness might look like having real standards for partners. Or, on a much more tragic scale, the knowledge that if we’re doing this right, the world will shrink before our eyes, and we can’t quite consider it a blessing. Wild heaven is only heaven when contrasted with the alternatives.

“How much power does Trump have?”

A few friends have asked: “How much power does Trump have now?”

It’s a good question, bearing fruit even through an informal, pundit-like discussion. The reason why it produces is that Trump tests our assumptions about what governs us. Those assumptions are heavily colored by American exceptionalism. Even as Congress fails spectacularly at performing its basic Constitutional functions—can anything that isn’t budget-related pass into law? Like, ever?—a number of Americans trust that the system works and refuse to hear otherwise. They take the political shows seriously and trust that “both sides” can find a way.

I myself am not immune to this lazy optimism. So I have to sum up the situation for myself, see the evidence. The former President, in my estimation, nearly overthrew the government on January 6th. If the mob he incited had done what happened with the Michigan state legislature—if an armed, pro-Trump crowd dedicated to the proposition “Hang Mike Pence” had watched in the chambers of Congress as the votes were certified—that is very clearly not constitutional government. There cannot be special privileges accorded to the President’s party which are effectually intimidation of lawmakers. If a Member of Congress had been killed on January 6th, what then of checks and balances? In that case, if Trump weren’t quickly removed, tried, convicted, and sentenced, the government would be finished. It isn’t clear that Congress would have done all the things I have mentioned on January 7th.

So thinking about January 6th helps disabuse me of the notion that everything is OK now that Biden is in charge. Nothing is OK. Deportations are continuing in direct defiance of President Biden’s orders; Congress can barely pass a relief bill with its legitimacy on the line; a $15 minimum wage was struck down at the federal level at a time when corporations are growing richer than ever during the pandemic; we’re approaching 500,000 dead of COVID-19 as I write this. This is still a country toying with authoritarianism and reeling from the effects of authoritarian incompetence.

It’s a country which is in deep denial about a lot of things. It can’t admit that the pandemic is bad because that would be admitting our healthcare system is terrible. It can’t admit that a federal response is necessary because that would be admitting private enterprise nowadays is simply oligarchic rule. It can’t admit there is massive inequality because that would be admitting that we have real obligations to other human beings.

And, to that end, I’ll sum a lot of this up: Trump still has a lot of power because the country really hasn’t processed what happened on January 6th. We’re still dancing around with words like “rioters.” Conservative media is making fun of AOC’s trauma from nearly being killed. A lot of people think politics is a game, something one follows for fun on television, radio, or social media. They think the violent rhetoric which increasingly has inspired violent acts is just talk.

*

Let’s talk about Trump’s power. He’s got a cult following, with some adherents holding high positions in business and government. The cult has a paramilitary wing, composed of militias and militant white supremacists. He’s also got a large network of propagandists and grifters who depend on his brand for their brand. A majority of Republicans support him over and against their own party, as Trump can bring out voters who would not bother with elections if he’s not on the ticket.

But his real power isn’t tied to the party. It’s not even directly related to his wealth, or that he is a unique media figure, one who has been in the headlines for over 40 years. His media persona, though, points to his specific power. He started as a real estate tycoon known for tabloid affairs who tried to start a luxury airline and a football league. Then he became known as a legendary businessman with the highest rated show in prime time. Finally, America’s most noxious racist, one able to spread lies about President Obama because he’s viewed as an entertainment figure. One not even expected to govern by tens of millions because he’s an entertainer.

Trump is a con artist. The casinos are a failure; his various ventures, from the airline to selling steaks to “Trump University,” are failures. But people want to believe in him. They want to be grifted by him. If you explain how they’re being taken advantage of, they resent you.

You could watch Trump on television, say, talking about how hard it was to flush the toilet at one of his rallies while holding the title “President of the United States.” You’d probably find the experience hilarious and repellent at the same time. It might be reflected that he has a goofy charm, that he appeals to the nostalgia of those who remember him, that his practiced stupidity communicates to people who cannot muster the energy to think about economic stimulus or equality before the law. All these things are true, but they don’t get at what’s fundamental to the con: He’s on television. You’re watching. He’s already won.

*

Trump himself partially understands his power. He sees it in terms of “kayfabe,” the rules of professional wrestling. There’s a drama, and some of the characters are “faces,” babyfaces who can do no wrong, and others are “heels.” The faces and heels fight, they switch places, the audience loves the show itself and cheers everyone involved. Trump’s Twitter (RIP) could be viewed as a wrestling promo—the taunts one wrestler shouts at another to hype a match.

But Trump doesn’t really understand what he commands. I don’t think anyone in America does, either. This country nearly died on January 6th, after all, and we only understand that in a limited way. We’re still charging people who might have killed Congress with misdemeanors instead of taking militant white nationalism and its various organs seriously.

Even “white supremacy” somewhat misses what’s happening here. People have believed in fascists who would murder their political enemies with impunity before. They’re drawn to crude tyrants who can barely count using their fingers. And America has elevated racial terrorists to Senate seats and worse.

What strikes me: how, when the mob gathered to hear Trump speak on January 6th, a number of them were angry at him. How they thought he had a plan to overturn the election, found out he didn’t, and stormed the Capitol and tried to kill the Vice President and Speaker of the House anyway. You could say the mob was using Trump for their accelerationist agenda, as they always planned to overthrow the government anyway. That’s true, but they still believed him and believed in him. Almost like he was “face” to them one moment, a “heel” another, but no matter what indispensable.

What makes Trump so terrible, so uniquely and destructively American, is that he is how we conceive of belief. He’s not simply beloved by white evangelicals. He’s foundational to how religion is approached in America.

*

Denial, in America, is not just a reaction to difficult events. It’s a right.

Free speech and the free exercise of religion lead to this: any time I’m angry about something and I want to take my toys and go home, I can. If Europe had religious schisms every 10 years or so, then America has churches splitting apart every 6 months or so.

I never, in this country, have to consider that I might be wrong. The television, by catering to this tendency, proves to be an exceedingly dangerous medium. You can watch what you like, and it satisfies you in ways you don’t even realize.

The TV does not want to upset you. It wants to excite emotions that resemble being shocked and provoked, but it needs you watching above all. It needs to be a virtual amusement park. Some shows that are like a carousel, others like a roller coaster.

Take crime programming, for instance. Heroic cops doing their duty against wave after wave of lawlessness. The cop dramas show us law enforcement which is relentless in the pursuit of justice, always making grim, tough choices. Reality, to say the least, is very different. Local news hypes crime reports, creates a feeling the police are the most necessary institution we have, but never allows a feeling of complete powerlessness. It sells fear, but not too much fear.

When the talking heads on the news shows say “both sides have problems,” it’s meant to be reassuring. There can’t be terrorists who want to destroy the republic, because the one side has to stand in proportion to the other. So if one side wants health care and better environmental regulations, then the other must want to save a little bit more money or generate some more cash. That companies would just dump toxic waste everywhere while giving their workers no benefits, and politicians would find it reasonable to provide cover for this, is not reassuring and not presentable.

The way the television caters to us affects how we believe. Specifically, it lets us indulge denial without our even realizing we’re in denial. We’ll watch a news segment on rural or urban poverty and not even realize those are our fellow citizens. That what makes us rich might be making them poor. It’s not just that there’s an excuse in our minds—”they don’t work hard enough.” We’ll actually believe job opportunities can solve everything, that if given a chance, everything will go well. This will never be challenged. It’ll be quietly affirmed in sticking to the details of what a poor community lacks, in ignoring the injustices suffered (sometimes) for decades.

*

Trump is the positive version of the denial silently sold to us. We’re told we need a militarized police force and laws that throw everyone into jail at the drop of a hat or else civilization will fall apart. It’s ultimately framed less as a fear and more of a choice. We choose not to be “those people.” In making that choice, we choose Trump.

We choose someone unremarkable except for being outrageously himself. Telling it like it is, failing at business, being seen as a good provider for his family despite his cruelty as a father and husband. The failures are the appeal. He is everyman; he must love the Constitution and the flag, because the political order has empowered him so much. It’s allowed him to fail upward into the Presidency. In classical parlance: many believe the tyrannical life, where one could have everything, would be the best life if it were possible. Morality, then, depends on the impossibility of the tyrannical life. Trump is the truth about morality, and thus for his cult, moral truth itself.

It’s exceedingly comfortable, and the reason why Trump’s cult gets ever more angry and violent is that a world that doesn’t romanticize a figure like Trump is inconceivable to them. Trump’s election was a promise and a peril for these people. It was a promise in that it might mean his ascendancy would erase all doubts about the legitimacy of being told what you like to hear all the time. But since those doubts did not go away—since 80 million people voted for Biden in order to throw out Trump—a larger peril now looms. The reality is that you can’t believe what you like, that failures which result in upward movement reveal a broken society. That those devoted to him are, in the end, a force together but also alienated from each other. If there wasn’t so much they wanted to hate, they’d never acknowledge each other’s existence. One wonders if they know their own existence, apart from their privilege.

William Bortz, “Clearsunned”

A few times I’ve been lucky. Got something like a posh hotel room—great view, immaculate walls, clean design—and witnessed the sun’s brightness set it alight. Not burning, not obnoxious, but as if the sun itself revealed a hidden clarity. “Clearsunned,” I feel, is a strange idea. I believe it refers to this experience, but this experience is also the product of perfect, staged photographs in magazines. Advertisements which try to sell a tropical destination or imported beer with white sands, vivid blue ocean, a distant but present sun. Ads inseparable from my imagination.

Clearsunned (from The Grief We're Given)
William Bortz
 
daily, I am
haunted by
the absurdity
of my smallness—

how do I ever become more

Before “the absurdity of my smallness,” I am haunted by his use of “daily.” Most days I fail to reflect on my smallness or limited time. This may be considered blissful ignorance, but in truth, I’m acting like a ghost. Mindlessly repeating tasks without demonstrating any awareness. More than likely needing a spark beyond myself to awaken.

It’s that thought which, I believe, gives this poem at least two possible tones with which it may be read. “daily, I am / haunted by / the absurdity / of my smallness— / how do I ever become more” strikes, at first, as a lament. It’s a lament I need to articulate but one that I’ve articulated in part. Worrying about my own “smallness” has led to many moments where I become disappointed in myself and do nothing. “how do I ever become more” has often been a fruitless whine for me.

But “the absurdity of my smallness” is a more complicated proposition. Even in the space of a lament, it challenges. How exactly is “smallness” absurd? One can say our smallness makes us absurd, but that’s not a literal read. Smallness may be absurd because we do become more, but our expectations serve as both a blessing and curse in that regard. When I demand of myself, I project a bigger version of myself onto a screen. And immediately the flaws are visible. I can’t be the image I thought I was. The images of others, like perfect, staged photographs, make the projection a further exercise in embarrassment.

All the same, expectations relate somehow to becoming more. It’s just never the way one expects. If one tries to have no expectations, trusting only in how others perceive them, one can’t even know if they’re more or less. I’m convinced, regarding this last notion, that I’ve been far too trusting in the evaluations of others instead of building my own. It’s sneakier than I originally thought: I’d assume they had some objectivity and insight I could use. I wouldn’t realize they’d have no notion of what my goals even were, and I certainly underestimated the level of self-interest in their answers.

The poem, then, reads as more than a lament. The seed of a realization exists in “the absurdity of my smallness” and “how do I ever become more.” We do become more. It’s possible for very damaged and even damaging people to still have value for others. (How much more value, then, if they tried to “do no harm!”) Smallness’ absurdity resides in the big dreams we have. Dreams which we can feel we’re not entitled to. Dreams which others can cruelly mock.

I think of the students I’ve had who want to be writers. How they’re often surrounded by encouragement and support, how lucky they are, how deserved every bit of that fortune is. There are so many who are tortured by others through “the absurdity of… smallness.” Told not to even try. Clarity can begin with recognizing the projections of others in one’s own head. At the very least, one can become more oneself with that recognition.

Martín Espada, “The Florida Citrus Growers Association Responds to a Proposed Law Requiring Handwashing Facilities in the Fields”

What kind of people want to deny those spending hours in the fields, aching and sweating while picking as fast as possible, soap and water?

No. That’s the wrong question. “What kind of people” absolves me, but I recognize the rhetoric. “An orange, / squeezed on the hands, / is an adequate substitute / for soap and water.” I know the shamelessness. How people can be so blatantly cruel, how “pride” and “power” are poor terms for discussing motivation. This is entitlement, replete with an ugliness impossible to understand through a book.

Trump is not only a symptom of reactionary rage. He’s also a product of the low, broken standards we have for the truth, the treatment of others, and our institutions. We’re much more comfortable with a company or trade association lying to our faces than with admitting we take full advantage of poor workers. We’re much more comfortable with abuse and dismissal of those pushing us toward betterment than building the best we can.

The Florida Citrus Growers Association Responds 
to a Proposed Law Requiring Handwashing Facilities
in the Fields
Martín Espada

An orange,
squeezed on the hands,
is an adequate substitute
for soap and water

Low, broken standards do not immediately present themselves as irrational or cruel. Watch enough commercials, attend enough school. You will begin to believe ExxonMobil has truly committed to fighting carbon emissions or that companies which offer free college care about their workforce’s development. The rough belief the system works—I’m alive! I have stuff! I can find a job and be loved!—grounds the faulty assumption that we, as a society, care enough to build and develop others. With that assumption, we make ourselves naive.

So we’ll hear “An orange, / squeezed on the hand, / is an adequate substitute / for soap and water” and believe it isn’t as shameless as it sounds. We’ll believe workers with little pay and no documentation have rights and a labor organization fighting for them. Not only must they have representation, but the fight must be on relatively equal terms. No one would deny soap and water to demean others. The farm owners must be terribly worried about profits; they must fear bankruptcy in a competitive market.

The sheer amount of rationalization performed on behalf of agribusiness worth billions will boggle future minds. They’ll ask how it was so hard to understand that money seeks power. That once money has power, it resists all challenges to that power, just or not. This lack of understanding might be an ancient problem come to life. The closeness of democracy and tyranny in the Republic, where the one who wants to rule everyone else is given rights and privileges he can exploit because of democracy. Or the suggestion of the Laws, where even the most law-abiding citizen might secretly believe the tyrannical life is best.

Plato is wise, but if I were asked what ails us, it’s sheer ignorance. The heart of the ignorance doesn’t concern knowledge exclusively. Some do know large corporations run farms and take advantage of workers. But even a number of those who know don’t attend to the extent of it and what it actually means. These are just facts on paper, or a report they saw on television. How other citizens live is a game. After all, no one asks about their own struggles!

The low, broken standards are the standards we set for ourselves. When I hear older men ranting about how some kid “got what he deserved” or how a group of people could just “shape up” and make life better for themselves, I don’t just hear anger. I hear decades lost through cynicism. No could be better than me, and no one should try.

Strangely enough, there is a sense in which an orange does cleanse. As a symbol for fertility, it was used in some still life paintings to represent the second part of the Trinity. An orange, an emblem of the Sun, can symbolize passion and rebirth. The workers pick these and in a literal sense are closer to the Sun for their efforts. Their efforts are those of the spirit, a spirit none of us on Earth can do justice speaking about, because their struggles are thousand-fold. Representatives telling their stories can only highlight some of the suffering. They cannot quite convey the Biblical scope of it.

This isn’t to say the workers are spiritually pure or have some lost innocence. It is to say that working people until they break is so massively unjust, so incredibly inhuman, it makes the very fact people do that kind of work otherworldly. We often equate knowledge of the law or justice with knowledge of God. But what of knowledge of injustice? As I grow older, I think about the times I was treated badly, and I discover how much was happening in some situations that I didn’t understand then. How things were rigged from the start. It doesn’t mean everyone who meant badly was Evil Incarnate. But it does mean some bad or misguided intentions became that much worse because they were enabled.

Alyssa Onofreo, “Disney Watercolors”

The mouse ears are a simple shape, almost a scribble. But there might not be a symbol as simple, ubiquitous, and immediately recognized by all—save one.

It’s strange to watch kids at Disneyland treat Mickey Mouse with reverence, as if he really were the biggest star in the world. Many of them only know him through branding, through other Disney properties like the shows on Disney Channel. But Mickey as a character with a distinct personality? Like Bugs Bunny or Kermit the Frog? Kermit I would understand. There’s almost no way to watch the clip from Sesame Street where he tries to sing the alphabet and not want to be a better teacher or parent.

In “Steamboat Willie,” the third Mickey Mouse cartoon but the first with sound, Mickey features as a lovable rogue. The film is a work of art. It’s easy to see why it was a hit that put Disney on the path of becoming a corporate titan. The music in the cartoon, itself a technical innovation, is catchy and nonstop. Nearly everything Mickey does gets you into the music, keeping the beat with him, whether it is banging on pots and pans, using a goat as a music box, pulling a cat’s tail to get painful meows in rhythm, or using an animal’s large set of teeth as a xylophone.

I can’t help but feel the film is revealing of another age. An age where people worked all day or were desperate to work, where drowning in Netflix for days on end wasn’t an option. (I am not saying overindulgence of media makes us better or worse. Or that we work any less. We’re just different.) Mickey Mouse could be a useful worker, as he continually demonstrates his skill with the boat’s crane, but he pushes his luck too far. At the opening, he’s steering a steamboat as if he were the captain, dancing and whistling in time with the music. His love for the work seems natural, contrasted with his actual boss, who while steering can’t even spit tobacco without hitting himself.

Mickey gets punished for turning the steamboat deck into an orchestra, but he deals out punishment to those laughing at him. It’s more cute story than Marxist comment, but the fact it’s appealing speaks volumes. He’s a free spirit with especial competence who is brought into line by work. Humility is a challenge, and it’s who or what teaches humility that I find most telling.

*

Disney commands our imagination like nothing else. It’s not just that they’re a 65 billion dollar company with enormous power over entertainment, whether we speak of the theme parks, Pixar movies, blockbuster animation classics, cable channels, kids’ cartoons, video games, ABC, ESPN, Star Wars, the Muppets–I mean, I’ve barely started this list. I need to be specific about how they command the imagination. I don’t go to sleep thinking about the film where Donald Duck made fun of Hitler.

It’s in the experience of the theme parks, that’s where you see it in full. If you wondered if Disney is a religion, it’s not quite one by our typical definition. It might be that way for a few people, but religion is real in America in other ways. Take the toxic Star Wars fans who want the scripts written exactly to their fantasies. It’s not hard to see the white/Christian supremacist movements at work there.

It’s the way people feel relief at the theme parks. How they genuinely feel relaxed there, how their individual workplaces are peppered with Disney merchandise and reminders of the parks. I can’t help but think of something discussed in Plato’s Laws. The ideal laws of this more realistic city than the Republic center around giving people festivals. Days of rest where one doesn’t have to go to a job. Days where, in theory, you could be yourself.

*

Onofreo’s watercolors are bright and bold. The candy shapes melt. The sugar drips, becoming goo off the canvas.

Alyssa Onofreo, “Disney Watercolors” (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

The pastel backgrounds do calm. But a soft-serve ice cream in colors unmistakably reminiscent of McDonald’s–I find that to be a challenge. I don’t need “high art” or some nonsensical construct to relax. I wouldn’t go to Disney World with the poems of Keats memorized, reciting them to myself. That’s obviously insane. What does it mean, though, that our notion of “sweet” might be one size fits all? What does it mean when someone dates the guy who uses Axe body wash, Axe shampoo, Axe conditioner, Axe deodorant and Axe cologne all at once because that signals some sense of standards?

Alyssa Onofreo, “Disney Watercolors” (2020). Courtesy of the artist.

The problem isn’t only about work or relaxation. On a larger level, it’s about fulfillment and meaning. The exceptionally gooey and melted Mickey, with a messy pink background, challenges you to see anything other than the shape of a corporate icon. The catch is that you can’t. The seams of the publicly-traded Walt Disney Company are also visible–the shows on FX don’t target the same audience as Kim Possible–but there’s no real ability for us to find anything we can comprehend within those seams. If you know ESPN’s staff in Bristol gets paid by the same people who paid those responsible for an affecting animated short about a dumpling, good for you. But it doesn’t advance understanding in any serious way. More pertinently: think about how ridiculous the Kingdom Hearts games can be, where human characters experience, say, a tragic death while Goofy looks on intently.

It makes perfect sense why corporate control leans toward the meaningless. If you’re acquiring based on what makes money, you’re not unlike a hoarder. Trying to bury a pain or an insecurity so it is never felt.

*

I don’t want to get into a rant that will get hit with “let people enjoy things.” Of course if I were at Disney World I’d want to get my photo taken with Kylo Ren. I know people who try to do things to their kids like read Shakespeare to them in the crib or buy only those educational toys which preach during playtime. That a kid might want a Barbie doll or a gun, and this isn’t the end of the world—this never occurs to them.

I want to be able to relax at Disney World knowing that I can at least appreciate a painting. And this much I can say for the playful critique of our temporary, corporate-granted relaxation in the park. Fine art, in this media-saturated landscape where everyone wants to rise to the top like Walt Disney did, is more important than ever. The media we’ve built has soaked through our consciousness. If we need that consciousness back, it has to start with things that speak with one voice, pay attention to one object.