“Beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it.” —Sigmund Freud: Civilization and Its Discontents
“You are always eager to make everything useful, yet here is a useless plot. It would be much better to have salads here than bouquets.”
…the bishop replied, “You are mistaken. The beautiful is as useful as the useful.” He added after a moment’s pause. “Perhaps more so.” — Victor Hugo: Les Miserables
It took a visit from my wife’s cousin to get us out of our routines and be tourists in our town. We did ye ole Lombard St. run (and distraught to see the Vertigo house had been changed! Sacrilege!!!) and headed up to Coit Tower. With the bonus of yet another rare warm San Francisco night, we stood in awe of the Bay Bridge below, its newly created undulating lights our destination.
For you out-of-towners, the bridge lights have been described as an “iconic light sculpture” designed by the artist Leo Villareal. Using LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and computer-driven imagery, the lights move in long-looping patterns, sometimes looking like fish swimming across, sometimes exploding into dazzling slow-motion fireworks. The effect is mesmerizing and stunning, especially viewed from Coit Tower on a warm Spring night. We “oohed” and “aaaahed” alongside many other folks who had chosen to spend Friday night witnessing a spot of beauty to cap off a week of work and open the door to the weekend. Lovely.
Over on the other side stood the Golden Gate Bridge, that other icon of dreams and grace and splendor looking a little forlorn. We were imagining its younger Bay Bridge sister, always the neglected one, shouting across “In your face, batch!” Even in beauty, I suppose the seeds of envy, bitterness, revenge are present.
In my TEDx talk on “Why Music in Schools” (still time to see it! Just google me and TEDx Conejo), I ended with Beauty as one of the compelling reason for arts education. When I introduced the Spring Concert the other night, I spoke of this again, invited the audience to notice the many faces of Beauty the children would be showing them. Not only the beauty of each piece of music calibrated to the child’s level of understanding, the dances, the songs, the games, the choreography, the art work slide show, but also the connected “ands” between them all. And not only the material, but the beauty of each child and the particular way he or she receives it and expresses it. And not only the quiet moments of beauty that bring the house down to a hush, but the humorous ones, the boisterous ones, the swingin’ ones, the zany ones, the driving dynamic ones. All the many faces of beauty.
The Bay Bridge lights are scheduled to be displayed for two years, thought it’s hard to imagine shutting them down when the time is up. Well worth a trip to Coit Tower. Put it on your list.