mundane and magic

It was late—for me—as I sat on the grass with my daughter and six thousand other people watching the fireworks.

I love fireworks so much. My head tilted back to see the explosions of color arc over the sky again and again.

They used to have smiley face fireworks. An explosion of lights that form a circle, with two dots for eyes and a smile in the middle. They don’t have those so much anymore. I guess they fell out of favor.

It’s funny that fireworks are used on patriotic occasions, because fireworks are made out of the same materials as bombs and bullets. The explosive sounds are identical.

I heard that sometimes veterans don’t like fireworks after they’ve seen action. I can totally see why the screaming explosions wouldn’t sound fun after you’ve seen them take lives.

I’ve heard that China invented gunpowder, and then outlawed other people from having it. They would only use it for fireworks.

As I looked at the awe-inspiring beauty of the showers of lights, I could only think of them as technology. The gunpowder it takes to launch these, and the advances it took to get them to squeal and sparkle–to make a smiley face!—that’s technology.

Art is all about technological advancements. How do you divide the soul from the spirit or the art from technology?

From chemical colors, which allow for textile and paint to be brilliant, to polymers that allow for sculptures and dwellings to have new shapes that weren’t possible before, these are the stuff of science and art.

Metal guitar strings allowed for louder music, so musicians could travel and perform for bigger audiences. And when bigger audiences were involved that changed the music again.

I don’t think it was the musician that figured out how to make the guitar strings metal. Perhaps the usual thing is for industrial forces to create an advance, and then artists to experiment with it.

But then I think of Stradivari and his violins. This was before the industrial age, and his craftsmanship with the violin–technology, really–changed the whole understanding of what violins could do.

He approached the art of violin making scientifically, using materials and forms to create these instruments. And his art affected the art of music for centuries. Arguably, his artisanship raised the violin to where it rests today, an inescapably pillar of music.

And these ideas swirl in my head, as I listen to the Souza march that accompanies the fireworks display above the field in my little town. The Chinese gunpowder, the craft of music making, and all the ordinary crafts that each of us can do…mixing a cake, fixing the computer, reorganizing a closet or helping a child with homework–these all have that mix of technology and art, the mundane and the magical.

As the final crescendo of fireworks explodes, I feel lifted and joyful at their beauty. I wish I could take that with me and see more of that than the mundane.

Sometimes I do.

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