Countering the Spectacle?

You may find this phrase, attached to the title Stone Soup, a curious choice of words and a doubtful connection. Let’s look into why it’s here.

Over at Horizons of Significance, and in a longer poem, I’ve written a fair bit on the Spectacle. It’s a way of speaking about the juggernaut of words and images and events that keep us in thrall to our illusions.

What strikes me about the Spectacle in relation to Stone Soup is the way this story shows us a way past our focus on Spectacle and towards a focus on satisfaction.

We tend to think of “Bread & Circus” as the defining characteristics of the Spectacle. To update these, how about burgers and professional sports? Or twelve course tasting menus and a week in Cannes?

There is another aspect to the Spectacle. In part it seems to fit our expectation. The litany of bad news presented in ways that keep us off-guard, and that provide no reasonable context. Endless re-runs of falling towers in slow-motion epitomize this for this generation, the Zapruder film, for an earlier time. In another way, it may seem counter intuitive.

I’d like to suggest that our predisposition to vacillate between unfounded optimism and abject pessimism is another way Spectacle manifests itself in our perception.

We tend to think of the Spectacle as something that happens to us. But what makes it such a pernicious influence is the attention we lavish on it. As with the rest of our reactive expressions. we give Spectacle its power over us.

This effect, that we have become habituated to both the positive, and negative, stimulation of Spectacle; means its hold on us is maintained by our attitude towards it. It’s not a case of an unavoidable siren’s song. We are capable of resisting.

The peasant women in Stone Soup don’t have many distractions. No television, no twenty-four hour new’s cycle, but they are habituated to bad news none-the-less. They have been ground down so they see life as nothing but a trial. They’ve become trapped by their view of their own suffering. They are unable to see any joy in life and they cannot see how they might join together and improve their physical lot. Until the beggar comes to them and, through a bit of beneficial Thaumaturgy, is able to bring them out of these traps. He has countered Spectacle, no matter what form it took.

Countering the Spectacle, finding ways to use creativity to bring joy and bring people together – in spite of the pressures, internal and external, of the weight of Spectacle on our lives – is the work of the artist. Beyond Art, it reflects on Craft, on Food, on how we live our Life.

These are the concerns of this place.

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