Dom Testa

Author, Speaker, Broadcaster

Take It Personally

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In case we need any more proof of the personal connection we make with art, here it is.

You can criticize almost anything about a person, like their car, their lawn, even their hairstyle, and they’ll probably just shrug. We generally don’t care what people think of our choices.

But tell them the music they love is crap and they’ll storm off. Say something derogatory about their favorite movie and they’ll practically unfriend you. Disagree when they rave about a book and you’re not only wrong, you’re a shithead and likely to get punched in the face.

We may not like it when someone disses our shoes but that’s nothing compared to questioning our favorite art. (Although, yes, for many people shoes count as art.) This puzzled me for the longest time until I realized it’s not just a matter of different styles.

Music, books, and to some extent motion pictures speak to our soul. I’m a dude and I’ve cried over all three at some point in my life. I’ve never shed a single tear over a pair of pants but Field of Dreams made me weep. I watched the Paul McCartney episode of Carpool Karaoke and balled like a baby. It was embarrassing.

I could meet you at a party and get along great. But if you casually mention that you think To Kill a Mockingbird is an overrated piece of trash I’d judge you to be a complete moron and disengage from the conversation immediately.

Art touches us in such a personal way that criticism of our favorite pieces is like a criticism of us. It’s funny; I never met Jimmy Stewart or Frank Capra, but if you think It’s a Wonderful Life is stupid then I’ll challenge you to a knife fight.

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And this is a good thing. We need to connect with art in this way for it to truly be art. We bond with the authors, musicians, and directors who almost read our minds and understand what we need to hear/read/see. Maybe it aligned perfectly with something else going on in our life at that time, or maybe it just spoke to a need we hadn’t realized was there until then.

It’s why the majority of songs and movies and books can be nothing but disposable pablum. But a select few do something to us we can't really describe. I don’t know much about classic paintings but there are some pieces that awe me. A couple of summers ago I stood mesmerized at the Art Institute of Chicago, gaping at a painting that everyone else strolled past without a second glance.

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Be thankful for this passion. Be thankful that a songwriter or an author or an artist is on your wavelength and can use their talent to convey what’s inside your head and your heart. Not everyone will get it, and they don’t need to. Just recognize that you won’t understand what touches their heart, either.

But if they don’t like the Abbey Road album you don’t want to be friends with them anyway.

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