Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ahh Bach!

My post title represents a famous line by modern philosopher Walter "Radar" O'Reilly. He was coached to say this when heading into a discussion of classical music with some snobblish acquaintances to fake his way into their graces. He had no knowledge of this topic as he was, after all, a low-level, boorish paper-jockey. I have had this experience before too (I am, after all, a low-level atom-smashing jockey). I was at a conference in Vienna about 10 years ago. It just so happened that the Austrian National Museum (Kunsthistorisches) was a couple of blocks from the conference venue. I decided to kill some time between sessions by checking it out. I should say that museums, to that point in time, could not hold my attention (yaaaaawn). The featured exhibit at the museum at the time of my visit happened to be the largest collection of paintings of Pieter Bruegel ever assembled. Bruegel was a Renaissance painter and is known for his landscapes and peasant scenes. His most productive period was in the 1550s and 1560s. His body of work remains unparalleled today (at least according to some snooty art brochure that I am just now making up). I was determined not to be impressed. I was in the front door and out the exit in a little better than 15 minutes. Not bad if you ask me. I headed back to the conference site to find someone to go get a coffee with. On the way, I came across a colleague and friend of mine (he was there for the conference too -- I don't know random folks walking around the streets of Vienna). He said he was going to the museum to -- let's all say it together -- check out the Bruegel exhibit. As I was looking for some company anyway, I tagged along with him. The next thing I know, it was 5 hours later and the museum curator had to kick us out as it was closing time. It turned out that my friend was an amateur Bruegel afficionado. He knew so much about the history and themes of each painting. He was able to explain the symbolism and nuances of each work in such detail that I was totally mesmerized. By the end of that afternoon, I had fallen in love with the works of this Dutch master. I currently own prints of The Triumph of Death, The Tower of Babel (yes that tower from Genesis 11), and The Fall of Icarus. The color palette and intricacy of his paintings are such that I never grow tired of studying them. I am always finding new details and beauty in his works. This post also brings along a life lesson. Sometimes, when left to our own devices, we can totally miss out on the true meaning and beauty of life. There are times when an experienced sherpa can bring much more out of us (or put much more into us) than we could have imagined.