Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is amusement bad?

In Greek mythology, the Muses were the goddesses who inspired the creation of art. In verb form, to "muse" on something means to allow it to inspire you. In other words, to think about it or meditate on it.

Back to Greek again, when you add the prefix "a-" to the beginning of a word, it negates it. So "apolitical" means that someone isn't political, "asexual" refers to something or someone that isn't interested in sex, and "amoral" indicates a lack of morals.

"Amuse", then, involves the absence of thought or meditation. If something is amusing, it's just meant to be a distraction without engaging the brain in any way. And while I get that that can be attractive, is it ever good? Or should we seek out and lift up art that not only entertains, but inspires us and makes us think as well?


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Chuck Sonnenberg of sfdebris.com posted a video discussing the importance of art making a viewer think. Sadly the video was removed because it used still images from "Star Trek" and that got CBS's panties in a bunch.

As an artist, I consider it my mandate to "educate and entertain". A flashy image will soon be forgotten, but an idea within the image can grow in the viewer's minds.

Though often when I'm not working, I've found myself aimlessly wandering the internet in search of "Instantainment" or immediate gratification in the form of an aesthetically pleasing image that does not require thought, and it does not satisfy.

Rich said...

Hey, have you seen the new Spider Chronicles release?

And very interesting article. It had never occured to me, but I think it's more pragmatic to consider what people mean more than what they say. I learned a few years ago about "prude," and was really unhappy to learn it was derived from "prudent" a word I liked to use. I am reminded of words like vegetarian, tea, and theory, all are words that have specific means and also broader meanings. My favorite is "obviate".

Michael May said...

I think I understand what you're saying, Rich. Often, people use the word "amusing" simply to mean "entertaining." I've done it myself. I'm just a word geek and like thinking about etymologies so that I can use language more precisely (though I try not to go around correcting everyone).

I didn't mean to suggest that it's bad to use the word "amusement," just that the concept behind its original meaning may not be as valuable as many people seem to think it is.

Rich said...

Not to worry. You didn't sound fussy about it. Like I said, interesting. But so many people do get fussy though, and it's so petty.

Oh, did you see:


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