You might as well stop worrying about "culture" and spreading the gospel of what is called supreme art.It doesn't suit some people at all, and if they love a comedy about two morons, well, that's what the comedy is there for, to give them delight.
It used to be said, and maybe still is, that in the Middle Ages everybody went to the local cathedral and gloried in the architecture. Ha. They went there because, first of all, there was nothing else to do, but also because everybody else did, just as nowadays everybody uses Right Guard.
It used to be said that when the barbarians got to Rome they were overwhelmed by the magnificence of the city. It used to be said that when Crusaders saw the cities of the Near East they were struck dumb with admiration.
I never believed a word of it. My experience and observation show conclusively that we see, we apprehend, what we look for, and very little else. And we look for what is familiar and homey and easy and not threatening.
This human habit means that little progress may be expected in any direction, except when some unusual person, some oddball, comes up with something new and wonderful. And even then, nothing will happen unless forces of notable power push it.
The sudden flowering of Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals in Europe sprang from a quite small base: a handful of gifted architects and a venturesome bishop or two. Later, of course, every town demanded its own showy monument, as today every Podunk requires its own international airport.
But I have not forgotten a day I was resting my poor bones in the big square where I could admire the western front of the church at Chartres. I asked a guy who sat down how he felt about living and working in a town with a singularly splendid building. He said it was okay by him but he had never understood why tourists came, as every village of France had a church more or less like it. Any church of Washington would probably have suited him as well.
Or you take the Crusaders. They brought back, occasionally, souvenirs of the East, just as a small traffic in silks from Persia or China had dribbled in for centuries before the Crusades, but the Europeans continued to live rather like swine all the same, even if Charlemagne had himself buried in a silk shroud from the Orient.
Or take the English. They can practically throw a stone to France, so close is the Continent, but French food (to take a commonly observed phenomenon) to this day has not penetrated the island kingdom to any detectable extent. The English still like pub food, one reason no doubt their teeth are bad, and while many of them go to France just to eat, many of them return home and still eat leathery overaged fava beans and still slop fish and chicken with disgusting (fortunately tasteless) gops of yellow flour sauce.
The mere fact that somebody sees something better than he has ever seen does not mean he will come home and build it, or cook it, or paint it. Once he is home he will go with the flow that's about him and that will pretty much be that.
In our own society there are plenty of chances for anybody at all to get on intimate terms with "great literature" or music or sculpture or science, but except for tourists dutifully herding their Nebraska kids through the galleries, they would be empty. Even in recent times I have had the Freer Gallery (now closed while the building is being fidgeted with) almost completely to myself. Everybody knows that the Freer has more masterpieces per cubic foot than any museum that occurs to me, but if you want to pack a gallery you should get something that makes ladies squeal, like gold ornaments from the steppes or silver tubs from England.
There is still argument whether high culture (Shakespeare etc.) does anything much for its lovers. Hitler is said to have adored Wagner. One virtue of American presidents is that at least they do not add to that argument, since Jefferson was the last (as well as the first) president who gave much of a damn for high culture one way or another.
One in 40-odd, which is probably high, statistically.
You can startle yourself with television, which this past week had Maureen Forrester singing a Bach air for a full 2 1/2 minutes, and starting Monday there will be four nights of the "Ring" operas on various public TV stations. Some people have already cleared their schedules for them and do not propose to answer the phone during them. Do such people thereby qualify for the Dandy Dan award of the week?
I don't think so. One way or another they are ready for an intensity of pleasure rare among any television audience. I happen to like trash television, especially Geraldo when he is utterly shocked, and Maury Povich when he is able to bring us the ideal story of a yellow-haired beauty assaulted and decapitated by a highway patrolman. And I find a good bit of unsuspected cultural value in "Roseanne" and "Coach." But if I miss one, or half a dozen, I don't mind.
Even with today's singers, who leave many dreams of the audience unfulfilled, the "Ring" is confidently expected to provide greater wattage of joy, to those able to take it, than 10 years of Lucille Ball, herself a personification of joy if only of lower voltage.
So I say let culture be and don't worry about it. When Brunhilde sings almost indefinitely to warn the hero of his coming death, you may think of a midnight cat on a midnight trash can. Or you may tremble a little that mere humans can seize the fire of gods.
Either way, let it be. But every kid ought to have the chance at joy that is truly joy, not just amusements that more or less pass the time. If he says it's spinach and the hell with it, fine. There's "Perfect Strangers," and all manner of wonderful stuff to provide a pleasure-filled life without getting anywhere near a big art.