“One should, each day, try to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words”…Goethe
Nothing other than Faust would come to my mind when mentioning the great artist and writer of the Enlightenment. Faust was a guy who traded his soul to the devil in exchange for extra capacity to gain knowledge from the sciences.
What we trade today – if anyone does – is confusing.
First, because I wonder where our souls are.
Maybe we’ve lost them and we don’t really have much to offer on the trading table.
Maybe we haven’t lost them, but our souls aren’t much of an interest to anyone, not even to Mephistopheles, to offer it as a good bargain.
Actually, when I think of the expression “good bargain”, I think of at least two things:
- either something cheap – that may break the next day but it was cheap, so we didn’t lose so much from the investment.
- or, it was an exchange of something cheap with something a little better, or as cheap, but at least new. And we like new things. The way we insist on having new clothes, otherwise why change the fashion trends every so often.
Besides this pun, my point was about Goethe’s lovely suggestion which I strive to apply as often as I can. No, I’m not being posh. It’s actually a hard exercise. Harder than my drills at the gym.
Back to my point.
Because of my dedication to the subject of media use and meanings to young people and children, I thought of tracing Goethe’s advice within young people’s preoccupations:
Each day one should try to
“hear a little song”
Let’s see, what MTV online chart offers
– “Bad girls”
– “Give me all your luvin”
– “You da one”
And the classics:
– “I like it rough” (it’s not a version of the one above)
Of course, I’m manipulative in my choices for popular songs. But the above mentioned do exist. Kids listen to them everyday and that helps me make my point.
“read a good poem”
Between Vampire Diaries and the Twilight saga there’s so much more on vampires, fame, or something glamourous that it’s hard to chose one as an example.
One thing is certain – the preferred language structure is prose.
The theme – vampires. (I’ve done my research)
“see a fine picture”
This will have to be a moving picture although Goethe may have meant something like Dürer. But we’ll ignore what he may have meant.
– the Twilight saga
– the Vampire diaries
– Pretty Little Liars
– anything digital, anything 3D, anything over the internet, anything free (preferred but optional)
“and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words”
“Speak” or, in modern terms, “text”, a few reasonable words. Of course, that depends on the individual, which I cannot predict. Nonetheless, speculations abound as to how much and what reasonable words kids speak today.
Actually, “reasonable” is what calls for a much harder debate here.
My point is that societies have always lived by, created and shared media – orally, via print, or digitally. But it’s the content (and the medium, to respect McLuhan) of that media that influences the design and makeup of a society’s social and intellectual preoccupations.
Simply put, great contributors to our civilisation like Goethe, advise us to not shun media, on the contrary, we should use it. Of course, he didn’t know that Lady Gaga will come to compete with Coleridge and Kipling. In other words, it’s our choices in the type of literature, music, art in general and its annexes, that form us, enlighten us.
It’s a good guidance for my kids. Thank you, Johann!