Arts, Sports, Entertainment, and a World in Crisis Mode

I’ve written before about people deeming the work of others to be unimportant, particularly when it comes to people who work in different areas of entertainment. It seems the coronavirus pandemic has led to a new wave of finger-pointing regarding whose work matters, whose work doesn’t, and how this time of quarantining proves afresh that overpaid pro athletes and movie stars and the like are useless when the rubber meets the road.

Now, this post isn’t to raise a debate about how much money entertainers should or shouldn’t make.

Still, that doesn’t negate the fact that a lot of folks who enjoy the entertainment that athletes and actors provide willingly pay for that entertainment all the time. There’d be little money invested or made in professional sports and motion pictures and such if paying fans and audiences didn’t exist or weren’t interested.

Anyway, yeah, “your work doesn’t matter” finger-pointing hits a nerve in me, maybe more so because I’m an author. It seems plenty of people think of artists and writers as folks whose work isn’t all that necessary, and perhaps that way of thinking will continue right through this time when people are staying at home more than usual and watching more movies and TV series and reading more books—entertainment that wouldn’t exist without “useless” artists and writers.

Huh.

Well. When it comes to professional athletes, I don’t think the fact that many of them can’t presently engage in their work (the entertaining parts of the work that audiences see, anyway) means the athletes are useless any more than the fact that stage actors and artists who can’t presently engage in their work means those actors and artists are useless. The work required in arts and entertainment is hard, made even harder when your upcoming events are canceled and many ticket-holders understandably want their money back.

Again, I’m not judging how valuable entertainment is, monetary wise, or how much audiences should or shouldn’t pay for it. But I don’t think a temporary world crisis/survival mode that forces technical designations of Essential and Nonessential jobs means: “Anyone whose work isn’t listed as one of these Essential jobs is a useless worker.” Not at all.

And while I in no way mean to minimize the seriousness of an international pandemic, it doesn’t mean I think times of crisis are the only times that truly matter. There’d be little reason to get through a crisis if there wasn’t a preferable quality of life waiting on the other side of it.

What we do on the other side indeed matters, including the places and times when people gather together to work, to play, and to worship. To sing and dance and go to the movies. To go to school, to go to the library, or to go out to shop and eat together. To see stage plays, to attend concerts, to high-five and holler at sporting events, to be delighted and awed at the ballet. To go visit friends and family.

It’s all a part of life. Basic survival is super-important, yes, but that’s not all there is to living well. Not by a long shot.

So. Instead of using this time to put down all the Nonessential and “useless” workers out there, we’d be wise to let this experience remind us that it takes all kinds of work in the world to add to our overall quality of life—to make life not only worth surviving through but more worth living.

 

“Your Lifework Doesn’t Matter.” Really?

Life's Work

My point, right out the gate: I’d advise against being quick to call what other people do with their lives—their art or vocation—unimportant just because their work may be (or seem) unimportant to you.

My reason for posting this point at this particular time: while waiting in anticipation for the NFL Super Bowl, I heard someone enter a Super Bowl discussion and dismiss the biggest event in professional American football as something that didn’t matter, before the person went on to change the subject.

Oh, it wasn’t the first time I heard someone indicate that competitive sports, particularly of the professional variety, don’t matter. After all, games like football and all the rest are just that: mere games, right? Mere entertainment. And games aren’t important like ending wars and addressing famine and finding cures for diseases and…

sportsBut, may I ask, just how long have human beings been playing games? Why isn’t game playing just a passing fad instead of an enduring part of the human experience, century after century? Why do thousands and thousands of people from all over the globe gather to play games with each other every four years at the Olympics, while millions and millions of other people watch? Why do men and women dedicate their hearts, minds, bodies, years, their lives to the lifework of athletics and competition, both amateur and professional, giving us tangible pictures of strength, skill, agility, strategy, endurance, perseverance, passion, cooperation? Why, year after year, do people tune in to certain channels on certain days; spend their hard-earned finances; flock to particular parks, fields, rinks, arenas, and stadiums; round up their friends and families or gather with complete strangers at appointed times to witness athletic competition? For “mere” entertainment?

I daresay that the athletic experience, whether on the side of the athletes or the spectators, meets a human need, as, critical as they are, peace from wars and cures for diseases aren’t the only needs humans have. (Of course, many amateurs and professionals also use their platforms as athletes to advance all manner of other worthy causes, which would take another blog post to get into.) Sports might not be the “thing” that meets an intrinsic need in you personally, that gives you an experience worth savoring and remembering and that teaches you something about the rest of life (as sports do for countless people). Books might be your thing instead. Drawing or painting might be your thing. The ballet might be your thing.

balletBut a novelist can’t look at an athlete and say, “Your lifework doesn’t matter,” as much of what novelists do through books, athletes do through sports. A dancer can’t look at a painter and say, “Your lifework doesn’t matter,” as much of what dancers do through dance, painters do through artwork. Filmmakers, comedians, musicians and composers, stage actors and playwrights, acrobats and circus performers, parents who amuse their infants and toddlers through Pat-a-Cake and Peekaboo and an untold number of impromptu games that have no name—I could go on to list how all kinds of people who provide others with entertainment are meeting a human need by doing so.

Hey. Even bloggers meet needs through writing interesting blogs.

So. Back to my point. I’d advise against being quick to call what other people do with their lives—their art or vocation—unimportant just because their work may be (or seem) unimportant to you. Chances are, the people you dismiss may be doing more for the world than you think they are.