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Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Never-ending Silk Road

Supposed portrait of Terence via Wikipedia
I'm very glad to see that there is now increased resistance against those who would assert their power by attacking artists of all sorts--visual artists, writers, composers and musicians, choreographers, and more--for what they term "cultural appropriation." This interesting little bit of jargon is, in fact, entirely alien to the world of art. Those eight syllables would destroy art if they only could.

Because the story of the world's culture is the story of peoples bumping into one another and learning from one another, of wonderful gifts being shared across all lines of nation and group and century. It is a form of enchanting, metaphysical trade, plied in all directions and in all times.

For if art does not transform, enliven, and generate new art, it is not successful. And one of the main ways art remains vital and new is through influence from other people, other places, other cultures. The art world is a great Silk Road, populated by wanderers, travelers with strange goods and magical new energies. These are the artists, those who love to make. Let them meet, let them trade, let them love the world by sharing their gifts.

Terence said this about the matter, a long time ago: "Homo sum, human nihil a me alienum putt." That is, "I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me" (from Heautontimorumenos, or The Self-Tormentor.) Born a slave, Terence put what he knew of the human into six plays before he died at the age of 25. Hurrah for the African-Roman playwright, Publius Terentius Afer, who told us well before B. C. became A. D. what we still need to know.


  1. Bang on.
    I like the link also, Marly. The idea that one person cannot reflect upon the culture of another person is ludicrous.
    It is artist segregation of the worst kind, in my book.

    1. Bumping into work from another culture is generative...

      I also mistrust any criticism of the arts (or most anything) that comes complete with its own jargon.

  2. It's such a problem these days. Frightening one. Since I am basically outside all the tribes online, I see it everywhere, one against the other. I decided to move the setting of my book because of it. I know, that's a scary acknowledgment, but I felt the setting would hurt the possibility of a sell and also create criticism that would distract. I've pulled back from the Internet. The link you posted is ironic for lots of reasons that I won't discuss here. Great post.

    1. Yes, it's sad and strange--so many ideas promulgated by the thought police seek to destroy art and culture and stymie its future growth.

      And I know what you mean about "ironic"...

  3. Replies
    1. Forgiven!

      I have a manuscript that I'm working on now that absolutely would not exist without influences from a very different culture. What are the temptations? Ignore it and pretend it didn't happen? Hide it, disguise it? I won't, but I know the impulse and sympathize with why you did what you did to your novel. I, too, am outside the lines... And the thought police are all about power, not art, not culture, not the creation of truth and beauty and goodness.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.