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  • Leena Carr

Bach on Purpose


Last night Arthur Brooks spoke on the University of Dayton campus. A Catholic speaker at a Catholic university isn't so surprising...but Brooks is a conservative, the head of the American Heritage Foundation. Now that's news.

Brooks was promoting his newest book, Love Your Enemies, and the audience was rapt as he talked about how to proceed in this current "culture of contempt" (and every time we roll our eyes, we're part of it). There was a lot of good advice, but one of the most interesting things he shared was in an answer to a question. He was asked whether his first career as a musician (he played the French horn in several orchestras) led him to see the world differently. Certainly most artists believe that is one of the strengths of good art (music, painting, writing)--to provide a new and different lens.

Brooks said that it was not the music per se, but the word of Bach who, when asked why he had devoted a lifetime to making music, replied "“The aim and final end of all music is nothing less than the glorification of God and the enjoyment of man.”

A pretty good ambition--but one that led Brooks to feel that his work as a musician didn't really measure on on that scale--and so he began studying economics (there's a hard right turn!). Read more about it here, but just know that he was motivated by how to make a difference in the world.

So many lessons in his talk, but here are two minor ones:

Art can be about enjoyment.

And art may not be the most effective way to make a difference in the world.


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