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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 7/8/20

Dear Friends,

Good morning!

I thought I would lead today with one of my favorite artists, Rene Magritte. Magritte was a surrealist. His art was revolutionary, ironic, and often tongue-in-cheek. The piece most interesting is known by several names, including “The Treachery of Images” or the literal “This is Not a Pipe.” It can be found at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; although a number of other related pieces are in museums around the world:

Magritte loved this image, as it is so disruptive and, yet, logical. Here’s his analysis:


“The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it's just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I'd have been lying!” — René Magritte


I think what is so interesting about Magritte is that he makes the viewer not merely a passive viewer but an active thinker about what the art represents. He mixes ideas, context, and absurdism in interesting ways. To Magritte, no representation of an object could ever actually approach depiction of that the object.


Magritte influenced pop artists in the 1960s. His work was ahead of its time. Perhaps “The Lovers” could have been painted for the COVID era…


Magritte was one of Brad’s favorite artists as well. We loved when we were able to find one of his pieces in a museum—almost as much as Rothko! You can see the bowler from “The Man with the Bowler Hat” on our bar at home:


 

ARE WE MEANER TO EACH OTHER?


If my mother were still here, she might be shocked at the manner in which people seem to be treating each other. It’s not just in the political realm that people are coarser, but in everyday life as well.


The other day, Andrea and Lauren were walking in Aspen (a place where, presumably, most people are outdoors on vacation and happy). Andrea quite visibly is sporting splits on both arms from a significant injury. When approached by a young woman without a mask, Lauren politely asked if the woman might give them a little space. “No, but you can” was the non-mask-wearer’s nasty response. Why is this belligerent attitude okay? Several examples, all in the last week:


• I’m on a trail in Aspen with Andrea. We put our masks on as bicyclists ride by with no masks. We get the nastiest look and violent shaking of the head in approbation.

• A pair of bikers trying to get past a couple of bikers. They politely say “passing on your left,” which is the appropriate protocol. The bikers in front refuse to move and stay abreast across the trail, forcing the ones in the rear to leave the trail to pass.

• Getting gas in Utah. The gas station is packed. Only one other person (out of some 20+) is wearing a mask. A fellow in a pick-up pulls in at break-neck speed from the other direction to block us out of a pump, completely unconcerned that he cut in front.


And we read the news reports about restaurants in “red states” that state that no one will be served if they are wearing a mask. And then just go on Facebook or Twitter and read the devastatingly nasty comments. Forget those that are anonymous. At this point folks are signing their names to posts that call others “idiots” and “assholes.” So much for the “marketplace of ideas…”


There are those who no doubt dispute this, but the coarseness, the “free pass” to be mean and name-calling and “me first” attitude comes from the politicization of the pandemic and coarseness at the top. Say what you will about our last few presidents. They certainly had their flaws But in my opinion, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama were both gentlemen, patriots, and dedicated to their jobs and the elevation of the national debate. They both made, in my opinion, fundamental errors in foreign policy. But they were kind people whose behavior was by-and-large exemplary. Now, name calling, humiliation, and invective are the order of the day. And it has bled into our daily lives.


We have work to do. Not just in acknowledging we must treat entire groups of people better, and working to work with communities different from our own, but also on the personal level. When someone asks to step aside, perhaps the natural response should be to simply do so and smile.


Better days ahead,


Glenn




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