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Conversations With Raymond


Our discussion had been a continuation of our discussion of beauty which turned to the subject of art. It was Christy who had brought it up actually. It was at that time that we adjourned from the kitchen to the dining room where Julie had set the table for lunch. I had prearranged the seating so that Ray and Christy would be seated next to each other with Christy next to the corner at the head of the table where I sat. I did not even try to hide the fact that I was in love with her. You may not understand that, but Ray should have.

Lunch was simple, as always, but there was plenty of it, a measure that was necessary whenever Ray was a guest. There were no cream cheese and olive sandwiches which surely disappointed Ray, but there was plenty of cold sliced beef, ham, cheese, tuna-fish salad, egg-salad, crackers and chips, and a variety of condiments and spreads and some wonderful bread Julie calls Portuguese bread, but won't tell where she gets it. It is a good thing there was plenty too, because Christy had an appetite that rivaled Rays. How she keeps that tiny figure I cannot imagine.

"What do you think about art, Christy? Is it important?" I began.

Christy took a moment to finish what she was chewing, and to think over the question.

"I guess I've always assumed its important. Isn't it a significant part of civilization? ... an expression of our love of beauty?"

"I think you're asking me to give you my answer, but I'm interested in what you think?"

"He does that all the time," Ray chimed in. "He asks you to give your opinion, then shoots it down. Don't you Regi?" he said looking at me accusingly.

"I only 'shoot you down,' Ray, when your opinion shows you don't know what you are talking about. But I don't do it to win an argument, I only do it to help you understand when you're mistaken."

"If I'm mistaken, I want to know it," Christy said emphatically.

"Well don't assume you are, Darling. Just say what you think," I said.

"All right! I think some art is important, but a lot of it is just junk, not art at all. So, when I say art, I mean the truly great art, classic art," she paused. "I mean the classic paintings, novels, poetry, and music, especially music, and perhaps some of the more modern things, but not much of it. At least that is the art I like when I do like it."

She stopped and looked at me as though waiting for a verdict.

I turned to Ray. "What do you think? Do you agree with Christy?"

"To tell the truth..." He began.

"Oh, yes, do tell the truth, Ray" I interrupted.

With an air of disgust he continued, "as I was saying, I don't care for most art. I find some paintings interesting and am amazed at some painter's ability to create things that almost seem photographed, but I do not find them beautiful. They don't give me any great pleasure. Sculpture doesn't interest me at all. I love to read and I really enjoy the classics, but it is not the joy of beauty, at least not to me. I don't enjoy poetry. And I do agree with Christy about music, however, because I do find classical music truly beautiful, and it really does give me that feeling I expect beauty to provide."

Ray stopped and he too looked at me as though waiting for a verdict. I was about to shock him.

"Well I agree with both of you!"

"That's it!?" Ray asked wide-eyed.

"Yes. That's it," I said. Christy looked almost disappointed.

"Well, there is one thing," I said. "You both only answered part of my question. Christy started to answer the other half, but got sidetracked."

"Oh, I know," Christy said. "Is art Important? I only really said what kind of art I liked and thought was truly art, didn't I?"

"Right! So do you want to take a stab at 'is art important?'"

"No," she said almost disappointedly. "I have no idea where to begin. What makes something important?"

"Excellent question. We'll definitely tackle that one. What about you, Ray. You want to say whether art is important or not?"

"Sure," he said. "Art's not important like a necessity, it's a luxury. We cannot live without things that are really important, like food, water, and medicine. We could live without art. It might not be as pleasant, but a lack of art would never kill us."

I admit Ray's answer astonished me, and I said so.

"Ray you have simply amazed me this afternoon. You are absolutely right. I do not believe it is the whole answer, but it is the root and substance of it.

"I believe there is a little more to it, but to understand that we'll have to answer Christy's most important question, 'what's important?'"

And we did answer that question, but not that day. I had some afternoon appointments and Ray and Christy also had plans for the afternoon, so we made an appointment for lunch the following Saturday.