On Entertainment & Art

On Entertainment & Art - Excerpts from Angels Fear


I just pulled out two snippets of conversation between Gregory Bateson and Mary Catherine Bateson from the book Angels Fear. The main topic of their conversation is addiction but their speak about entertainment is the highlight for me, in this time of the pandemic. Confined to our homes, surrounded by gadgets, equipped with high bandwidth connections, besides bad news, we are having to deal with endless streams of information & entertainment through various channels and in various forms.

Sorry if the conversation snippets seem disconnected or even severed. I found these quite meaningful and worthy of sharing. I recommend reading this book but, be warned - Its not entertaining.

Snippet 1:

Daughter: Is this where the connection comes, for Angels? Certainly there are people for whom religion is a palliative and lots of New Age religion is really a way of getting high? Or did you just plan to put addiction in on spec that the different trains of thought do tend to hook up? Or— I know, it’s because it’s a form of learning. Do you remember a paper I wrote a few years ago about the way in which religion can be converted into entertainment, and the way in which people in our society are trained in the capacity to be bored? We think of ritual as boring unless it’s dressed up with new and interesting music or vestments, because we’ve been trained to be subject to boredom.

Father: Collingwood talks about the difference between art and entertainment: that the real thing leaves you richer at the end and feeling good but requires a certain discipline at the beginning to attend to it, whereas entertainment requires no discipline to enjoy it at the beginning and leaves you sort of dead at the end. Education has become increasingly a matter of seducing children into paying attention by sugaring the pill at the beginning, keeping them entertained.

Snippet 2:

Father: Ah, the pleasure of intoxication without the preliminary headache.

Daughter: Well, and that takes us back to entertainment. However much I enjoy learning something new or writing or even arguing with you, there is still a cost on doing it that keeps it from getting out of hand. Because the conversation also supplies the headache.

Father: Well, yes. And in art, as opposed to entertainment, it is always uphill in a certain sense, so the effort precedes the reward rather than the reward being spooned out. One of the things that is important in depression is not to get caught in the notion that entertainment will relieve it. It will, you know, briefly, but it will not banish it. As reassurance is the food of anxiety, so entertainment is the food of depression…