Tuesday 17 December 2013

Beauty, truth and the third alien

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

Middle Child came back from school a while ago and told me he had some important news. He had won a starring role in his school nativity play! That's great, I said. Joseph? One of the three kings? "Third alien," he said. Right. How many aliens are there? "Five," he said. Well, that's just brilliant! Of course he will always be my little star, even if his big break only amounted to three lines (one of which was said in unison with the other four aliens).

Alien face
The third alien makes his debut
©  | Dreamstime.com

It was a fabulous school production nonetheless! Watching all those little people singing their hearts out never fails to make my eyes water. My favourite bit was when MC's best friend Laura (fourth alien) whipped up her costume in a frenzy of excitement and flashed her Peppa Pig pants at the audience.

For me, Christmas is all about the various shows and concerts. Last week, Quiet One and I went with friends to see The Nutcracker ballet. I am no technical judge of ballet, but all that physical virtuosity (not to mention the Arabian dancer's muscular torso) was thrilling to watch. I left the theatre buzzing, while Quiet One expressed her feelings by dancing along the pavement. 

Our emotional workout continued a few days later with a local carol concert. We were stuck behind the organ with no programme to follow the words, but the voices and music were so beautiful we didn't care. Besides, Non-walking Toddler is perfectly happy bellowing out Jingle Bells to any musical accompaniment. Her unbridled enthusiasm did mean, however, that the gentleman in front of us made a bit of a hash of Come All Ye Faithful.

I love the way that art or music can provoke a pure kind of emotional response in all of us, whatever our age. We don't always understand the way we feel, but for a brief period of time we are able to transcend the mundane (in my case: Tesco shops, Christmas to-do lists and the constant emptying of the dishwasher). This ability to appreciate art is a uniquely human attribute. For me, it's more powerful than religion.

When I was at school I studied Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn. After four stanzas on the immortality of art, he finishes with an up-sum of his aesthetic ideal: 
Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
To be honest, I never entirely understood what Keats was on about, but his words have always stayed with me. I wonder now if the poem is telling us that there is a simple truth or sincerity in the feelings that art inspires. You can't fake what you feel inside. And even my third alien, witnessing the birth of the Christ child (Laura's Baby Annabell wrapped in a tea towel), is a part of that beauty.

Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam

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