Ars Gratia Multitudinis

Years ago I knew a young man who trained as an artist and was trying to get started in the profession. I taught seminary in the same room where he taught Sunday School, and there would sometimes be an interesting chalk sketch left that I unfortunately had to erase. Contrary to stereotypes, he had no sense of entitlement that the world owed him an opportunity to create, and accepted that work he might produce for profit would have to serve the purposes of those buying it as well as his own. In that vein, he once explained that painting nudes was self-indulgent and not viable for a working artist. There were few art buyers who wanted such works for their living rooms.

This came back to mind as my wife told me of a violin she examined today. She has been looking for a good spare, and a local music shop had one to look at. This was not a string shop, but more of a guitar and drum store, and they said this particular violin was worth $2500, but they would sell it for $500 because they had had it already for two years without a buyer. It turned out to have a very good sound, better than another in the store priced at $1700. It also had a highly visible checkered inlay around the perimeter of the front face. On the one-piece back was an engraved portrait of Beethoven. My wife said the woodwork was excellent, an act of love by some craftsman. Unfortunately it reduced the instrument’s usefulness for her to the point that she did not buy it. Though nice for a mariachi group, or maybe bluegrass fiddling, its appearance would be an unwelcome distraction in an orchestra or string quartet.

There may be a point there somewhere about mundane things often being what is needed for service to the mundane world. Or that conformity is sometimes of more value than being outstanding.

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

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