You have to be practical

Last week my family went to a Korean cultural show in Irvine. Tae Kwon Do demonstrations, traditional Korean drumming, hip hop dance. Last Sunday I saw a friend perform in a concert for his a cappella group.

In watching these performances, I started to wonder – Why do we have shows like this? All of the dancers, artists, and musicians in these shows were students. What practical value do these organizations provide? Would their time be better spent studying to boost their GPA? Learning coding languages to build useful job skills? Doing good works for the betterment of others? What good is it?

I started to think about all the benefits of involvement in performance arts (community development, fostering of creativity, strengthening of discipline), but realized that these approach the question from the same pragmatist angle. The real question that came to mind was:

What does it matter?

Yes, the time that my friend puts into practicing his songs could be spent on serving the poor. Yes, the hours that Sammy the dancer invests into choreography could be focused on studying. Other activities may confer a greater utility.

But life is more complex than a pragmatic perspective. All of these things are a celebration of life. We dance because we can. We sing because we can. There’s nothing practical about joy, exuberance, or happiness, but those are the things that people crave.

Practical works satisfy the body. Celebration satisfies the soul.

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