By Michael Milton

January 27, 2016, 5:37 pm

 
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“The Art of Seeing” by Michael Milton

I often look down my nose at people who find ways to dismiss the beauty they can’t own; the cottage they secretly love in the Hamptons but will never be able to afford (… ugh, those 1 percenters are soo stuffy!); the painting that would look great over the sofa but is already hanging at The Brooklyn Museum (humph, wrong shades anyway!); or the gorgeous blonde they will never possess, no matter how many times they chant the mantra “I am worthy,” (… gravity will do its work on her soon, so there!)

...that Hamptons cottage...

…that Hamptons cottage…

As my therapist tells me, my strong response (read: judgement) of others’ behaviors is generally a good sign that I share that same response in some measure within myself.  So, I suppose it is more accurate to say I am looking down my nose at myself, which has a certain reassuring physiological truth, along with the less comfortable metaphoric one.

I think I miss one of the defining features of beauty in my shallow dismissals of that which I yearn for. Do I think beauty is hurt when I turn my back on it or find a way to diminish it?  Do I think I am more apt to get it if I play hard-to-get with beauty?

Yearning is a part of the energy of beauty.

Yes, there is the yearning to physically possess beauty, to own it, to claim it. But beyond that is the yearning which beauty inspires within us to somehow want to better comprehend our world.  Beauty shines a light in the corners of our own essence and simultaneously whispers questions in our ear– not only “What is she like in bed?” but also—and probably more importantly– “What is love? What is the meaning of the Universe? Who am I? What is God?”

Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson

Who knew Pamela Anderson could be considered a part of this sort of inspiration?

Yearning can be uncomfortable.  It’s the risk we take when we sink even just a bit beneath the surface of beauty.  You can rush past Gustav Klimpt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer at the Neue Galerie, (‘Yup!  That’s it!  Got it!!’) or you can pause, take a breath, and dare yourself to experience what hides down in the extraordinary depths of Adele’s dark eyes.  And really, who knows what you’ll find there within them?

On some metaphysical level, I truly believe that we bring into our lives more of that which we take time to invest our attention on: noticing the sensual brush of fine cashmere might remind me of my love of wonderfully made clothes; embracing the sound of a sprinkler circling across my lawn at dusk reminds me of the satisfaction nurturing plants brings me.  And when I notice beauty, I believe the signal I am sending out to God (or Whomever) is, ‘More, please!’

Adele Bloch-Bauer's Portrait by Gustav Klimt

Adele Bloch-Bauer’s Portrait by Gustav Klimt

Beauty defies ownership, except in the most passing of ways.  Beauty freely fills our days, asking only to be noticed and experienced.  I know how preachy I can sound on the ‘stop and smell the damn roses’ track, but it’s because I am so often in need of the reminder.

I just leaned back in my desk chair and focused on what was playing on WQXR; Aram Khachaturian’s orgasmic Adagio from his ballet Spartacus.  It’s a little sholcky, I know.  I’ve heard it a thousand times.  And I really want to finish this writing! Still, I overcome my rushed pace and sink slowly into the music. Khachaturian serves up yearning by the bucketful in the Adagio; images of my too-fast passing life swirl by; the memory of my first love, the rawness and dangers that lurked there, and the ecstasy, too, all coupled with the surety that they are moments I can never have back again, except as I am reminded of them on the wings of this soaring melody.

The Bolshoi Ballet, "Spartacus"

The Bolshoi Ballet, “Spartacus”

It’s gorgeous, of course, and I cry.

Unexpected tears are one of the dangers of the “yearning” issue inherent in beauty.  Yearning can also lead to other forks in the ‘Beauty Appreciation Highway’, like ‘Riotous Laughter Way’ or ‘Exuberant Ave.’

Alice Walker wrote, “I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice.”

I’m sure it does. We all want what we create to be noticed.  Why would God be any different?  And if the key to that cottage in the Hamptons does find its way into your pocket, you darn well better be amazed by its beauty hourly or you’ll have me (and God!) to answer to!


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About The Author

Michael Milton worked as an Associate Producer with Marty Richards, Sam Crothers and Robert Fryer at The Producer Circle Co. in New York City for over twenty years. Broadway: THE LIFE (2 Tony Awards), SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1 Tony Award), LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (Revival; 1 Tony Award and personal Drama Desk Award), Chita--A DANCER'S LIFE. Film: CHICAGO (Academy Award, Best Picture, Marty Richards). Michael has also co-produced many philanthropic events, including the legendary Red Ball benefitting NYU Medical Center and the New York Center for Children. As a writer, Michael has been featured in The New York Times, 'About Men' column, House Beautiful, Genre Magazine, The James White Literary Review amongst others; wrote the book for two musicals, THE NIGHTINGALE and FARAWAY BAYOU. Co-wrote (with Leslie Gore) the book for children's musical THE MERCHILD.

Michael Milton worked as an Associate Producer with Marty Richards, Sam Crothers and Robert Fryer at The Producer Circle Co. in New York City for over twenty years. Broadway: THE LIFE (2 Tony Awards), SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1 Tony Award), LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (Revival; 1 Tony Award and personal Drama Desk Award), Chita--A DANCER'S LIFE. Film: CHICAGO (Academy Award, Best Picture, Marty Richards). Michael has also co-produced many philanthropic events, including the legendary Red Ball benefitting NYU Medical Center and the New York Center for Children. As a writer, Michael has been featured in The New York Times, 'About Men' column, House Beautiful, Genre Magazine, The James White Literary Review amongst others; wrote the book for two musicals, THE NIGHTINGALE and FARAWAY BAYOU. Co-wrote (with Leslie Gore) the book for children's musical THE MERCHILD.

3 Responses

  1. Doctor Martin

    The single minded pathology to play mix-and-match with other peoples excellence (in this case poor Aram Khachaturian’s Adagio from his ballet Spartacus) ruins, yet again, a work meant to be enjoyed as it’s performance was intended by it’s creator, pure and unmarked by politics or a politicians “interpretation” of how the piece SHOULD have been written rather that it’s creators intent. Dragging fine work into the common everyday for the sake of ideals never intended, and rightfully so, by all the best performers, producers, directors and choreographers in the world takes their work and re-creates it as only a side issue to the actual “message” intended by the above effort. Making all the previous fastidiousness of character as originally envisioned nothing more than unintended solipsistic narcissism unworthy of artistic note.
    I find this variation less than inspiring, enlightened or worthy of comparison with previous, more astute, efforts of the past.

    Reply
    • MM

      Hi,
      I hadn’t been aware of your comments on my YEARNING piece in The Brooklyn Reader until today. I don’t have a very firm grasp on anything technological (frankly, I didn’t even know people COULD respond to my column!) and am a little unsure how to reply when a reader makes a comment. I hope the following is appropriate…I thank you, to begin with, for your extraordinary response. And I agree with you; comparison in art is a lesser response than the immediate “knee jerk;” I agree, I should add, in a wishful sort of way because though I “yearn” to have the ability to trust my gut in art–and in all things–I rarely do. My exploration of art in any form is usually in a trickle down kind of manner, gleaning ideas and responses from others and, occasionally, even a little from my own genuine reaction. I require (or perhaps simply feel safer with) other conduits to help me fashion response. Curiously, I feel sorry for myself even as I write that, especially since I remember many times when I was younger how vigorous my responses were to life in general and not requiring any outside verification. I think I started to do The Art of Seeing column to explore that now often blank space in me…to see if I could still summon up something true and unblemished by politics or reviews or any other input other than my own heart. This all worries me…about myself and about others…and again, I thank you for your insights. I will remember your words as I write in the future. Sincerely, mm

      Reply

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