Via Basel: Passions, Part 1: Art & Literature



Aixa Oliveras, Through Darkness Comes Light

Following a few weeks of deliberate idleness (in writing only) here I am posting my New Year’s resolutions and commitments. To do so in a public manner serves two purposes. One is to hold my feet to the fire, and I depend on you readers and friends to hold me accountable if I fail to live up to my promises. The other is to inspire others, especially my cohorts, to go deeper as they contemplate what they intend to do this year.

This also comes as a follow up to my post “Sophie’s Generation ” two months ago, in which I questioned my generation’s commitment to Sophie’s, my granddaughter. Some of you may have seen the recent movie The Darkest Hour. Churchill has lived many roles, be it soldier, statesman, leader, historian, and others, but what I love to read and listen to are his speeches and sayings on so many subjects, Wit and Wisdom being one of them. This one is relevant to our conversation: “What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for nobler causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” That is Sophie’s generation for us today.

Every one of us has a specific noble cause buried deep inside. Now is the perfect time to bring it up and shine a light on it. Pursuing it with vigor to help ” those who will live long after we are gone” is a blessing both for the giver and the receiver. Now being an overachiever I have chosen to focus my energies on three domains which have attracted my interest for a long time but felt the need to reignite my passion for them this coming year and hopefully for years to come.

My first one will come as no surprise to most who know me well. The arts along with poetry and literature occupy a special place in my heart since I was the recipient of these gifts by association.  Living with Roz the artist for many years was in itself an education opening my eyes to the beauty, magnificence and transcendence of the visual arts that gradually expanded to all others, performance, music etc. From Chris, my son, came my schooling in poetry and literature. His passion for them was infectious as father and son spent hours discussing subjects ranging from Russian novels to Shakespearean tragedies. Just as Roz left us her beautiful paintings, Chris’s legacy was his writing and essays and creating this platform from which I am communicating to you today, Escape Into Life.

Our calling I believe is not only to enjoy and be enriched by the arts and literature, as satisfying as that may be, but supporting and promoting them in whatever means at ones disposal. Go to see a good play, buy a painting or an interesting book and encourage friends to do same. Become a member in a book club or poetry group. A financial contribution of any amount to help  young struggling artists can do wonders to make them feel appreciated. Our family maintains this site and has sponsored a fund to help young talented students at SAIC  (see link below) in memory of Roz and Chris. 

To those who question the importance of the arts currently and its relevance in our daily lives, let me quote television writer and producer of sitcoms like All in the Family and others and a recent Kennedy center awardee, Norman Lear: “We will save our world. But when it is saved, I’m confident that the door will have been kicked open by things that bring us together—the arts.”

If you are more inclined to believe a Russian novelist, then Dostoyevsky wrote “Beauty will save the world” in his novel The Idiot around 1869.

Until we meet again in a few weeks to discuss my 2nd passion, may your heart be touched and your spirit  uplifted by a close encounter with at least one variety of art or literature. 

Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now, retired, he will have more time for that. And for the next adventure.

Via Basel: Sophie’s Generation

Via Basel: The Vigil

Via Basel: Five Years

Via Basel: 2015 SAIC Scholarship Recipient

Via Basel: A Look Back (at Rosalind Al-Aswad Exhibition and the SAIC Scholarship)