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10/09/2015

Deeply Superficial

“People need to be made more aware of the need to work at learning how to live because life is so quick and sometimes it goes away too quickly.” – Andy Warhol

This past weekend was the last one for The Late Drawings of Andy Warhol: 1973-1987 exhibit at The Hyde Collection Museum in Glen Falls, and I almost didn’t go to it. I told myself there were far too many other things to do: the stack of recent journal articles I’ve been meaning to get to; student assignments that are in need of grading; the upcoming presentations for which I haven’t even begun putting together powerpoints; the apartment that, despite ongoing efforts, never seems to be completely clean; the piles of unwashed or unfolded laundry; and so on. In terms of triaging my limited time, a two-hour round trip trek to see a handful of sketches hardly seemed sufficiently important.

But in the end I went. I went because I view Andy Warhol as one of the great artists of more-or-less-recent time. I went because there’s something deeply invigorating to me to be in the presence of (the products of) creative genius. I went because in the short-term seeing Warhol’s 1983 Jean Cocteau and 1976 Cats means more to me than a perfect powerpoint, and because I imagine that in the long-term having been able to stand less than a foot away from his 1965 Portraits of the Artists or 10 Pop Artists 10 Times, 1973 Mao and 1987 Beethoven will mean more to me than reading a few more journal articles. I went because, as far as can be empirically verified, I’ve only got one go at this life. And if I’ve only got one go at it, there will be art.

On the drive back to Albany I reflected on my weekend-time dilemma and how something similar comes up in clinical ethics. Although there have been recent efforts at getting people to engage in serious end-of-life discussions if they are 65 or have other qualifying conditions, for the most part this sort of conversation involves far too little, and occurs far too late. When it comes to serious advance planning, the real focus, it seems to me, should be on advance life planning. What matters to us towards the end of our lives should be informed by what matters to us while living our lives, and vice versa. Andy knew this. I’m still in the process of learning this. But each time I choose the daily equivalent of an art adventure in Glenn Falls I feel I’m getting closer to living the kind of life I ultimately want to live.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate
of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in
Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information
on AMBI’s online graduate programs, please visit our website.

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