Wednesday, January 20, 2010
During my time in Florida, we visited the winter home and laboratory of Thomas Edison and his next door neighbor Henry Ford. It's a beautiful estate, of course, and the variety of plants is amazing, particularly the huge banyan tree that no visitor there ever forgets. (That tree was among the things that had stuck with me from an earlier visit years ago.)
On my tour this time, however, I especially noticed our tour guide's comments about the important roles of music and dance in Edison's life. Edison enjoyed playing the piano in his spare time, and he met his second wife at a party when she played a piece by Chopin that caught his attention. His grand piano is still on display at the house.
The guide also told stories about parties at the estate, when the carpets would be rolled up so that the people could square dance. Edison and Ford apparently both loved to square dance, and it was a requirement for their employees to know how to dance.
Ironically, Edison's own inventions have distanced us today from such active participation in our own entertainment, both music and dance. Musical recordings and movies and television (not all direct Edison inventions, I realize, but certainly all stemming from his work) create unrealistically perfect performances and encourage our passive, private enjoyment of the arts. I doubt that parties at Bill Gate's home still involve rolling up the carpets to square dance. A societal shift away from participation in the arts is a great loss for all of us. It's important for our spiritual health to maintain our connection with the arts, and church is one venue where we can still sing with family and friends. Where else in your life do you still sing (or dance)? That's just one more reason to sing with gusto this Sunday!