Friday, October 9, 2015

Agenda 21: The Parable of the Artist's Prison

Agenda 21, pp. 171-176

STORYTELLER: Hello, friends. I'm sure that my presence, unexpected as it is, is perplexing to you. It was never my intention to hijack this commentary, but the creator left unexpectedly and put me in his stead. He gave no instructions, save that I read the following without omitting a word:

"Chapter 26 is a waste of time. Emmeline regains consciousness at the Meeting, arousing no reaction from anyone else there. There is no pairing ceremony. Later, she learns that the special ceremony was ordered by an Authority who was overstepping his boundaries. Aside from raising a few questions about the Republic command structure, this chapter does nothing but completely defuse the earlier tension by telling us that David is okay, something that could have been revealed in the next two chapters where it would actually make sense. Therefore, I have decided to leave this update in the hands of another of my characters and return in the next chapter when there's something worth dissecting."

An unusual development, you must admit. My normal response to such a request would be a story, so I have opted to pen a quick tale that I believe is appropriate:

Once, there was a painter who lived in an old kingdom. He was a man of small talent, smaller repute and smaller still wealth, but he had ambition to create a work that would last the ages. Time and again, his colleagues were commisioned to paint works while he was left to sit in his cottage and dream of everlasting fame.

Finally, his day came. A messenger from a local lord rapped on his door with an amazing offer. "My master wishes for a painting to reflect the glory of his kingdom," said the servant, "and we are willing to furnish all of your supplies and attend to all of your needs. This is a most challenging task, one that many others refused for lack of drive, but the rewards are great." The painter loved the sound of that last line. How he longed to show up the others who had made him feel so small! He eagerly accepted the offer and departed with the messenger.

As the lord's fief came into view, the painter learned why this task was deemed a challenge. It was a wretched, colorless patch of mud, crowned by an ugly cluster of villages. It had the look of a tract set aside for a most unexceptional man. However, he perked up when their carriage reached the castle. His quarters in the estate were magnificent, decked out not only in creature comforts but well-stocked with fine brushes in every size and oils of the highest value. The painter eagerly tackled his task, sure that his new tools would allow him to finally paint his masterpiece.

The only outlet to the world was a window looking out onto the wretched earth, so the painter dug into his imagination. Days turned to weeks and to months as he labored over his work. He never departed his quarters - food, wine and supplies were delivered to him on demand by servants who never spoke or made a sound. But despite the perfect circumstances, the masterpiece never formed. With each failed painting he shredded, the painter cursed his luck. The task was impossible - a he simply could not make this cursed place seem grand.

But when the painter turned to depart, the door refused to budge. In his fervor to begin, he had not noticed the locks on the door. From the other side, the painter could hear a voice: "A deal is a deal. Finish the task and you will be rewarded and released." The painter replied, "Even a true master could not draw beauty from this place." "As though you would know of mastery!" returned the voice. "A true master could draw beauty from anything, but he would never be fool enough to shackle himself to a place such as this. Now, return to your task, lest you make of this chamber a tomb!"

The moral of the story? Art that is not its own master soon becomes a slave to the artless.

Ceci n'est pas une plug.

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