It’s Feature Friday and I’m so excited because it gives me a chance to tell you about an incredible podcast episode I listened to yesterday. Clifton Duncan is a NYU Tisch School-trained actor and spent several years on Broadway before moving to Atlanta in protest of vaccine mandates on Broadway and in NYC. His podcast is fairly new but has quickly become one of my favorites. Clifton interviews artists and discusses many topics including the arts and meaning, arts as the spiritual, the current social climate in the US, and how the arts shape our culture.
Clifton recently interviewed Douglas Murray, who has just released his book, The War on the West. Douglas has made the podcasting rounds and I have put his new book on my “must read” list. He sat down with Clifton to discuss a specific chapter in the book, having to do with culture. They discuss the recent erosion of art and the current deconstruction movement and how the war on cultural appropriation is devolving the arts into nonsense.
I loved Douglas’s idea of art. He said,” One should regard the arts as being a glimpse into something which we don’t know and can’t understand, but we know speaks to us of truth.” Truth is the point of art. It is a mirror to ourselves and how we interact with the world. I believe that truth and beauty are two of the highest virtues to strive for. At one point in the conversation, Clifton is discussing the documentary Why Beauty Matters, an exploration into the ideas of philosopher Roger Scruton, and he says “beauty is something that you have to work at. It’s a conscious process, and it only comes after great striving with great vision and discipline.”
Douglas believes that a large part of our societal issues stem from an overcorrection towards empathy. He says, “You can’t solve the economy by being empathetic. In fact, you can’t solve poverty by being empathetic. You can’t solve people’s personal problems by being empathetic. Very often what people actually lack is somebody standing over them and saying ‘this is what you need to do to sort yourself out.’ They actually suffer from an overdose of empathy in their lives. So I do think that the arts in recent years have overdone the significance of empathy alone.” I believe empathy to be very important. People want to feel seen and heard. But when the pendulum swings too far towards empathy, you lose the tough love that seems to be missing in the current social climate.
At the end of the podcast, Douglas reads an exchange from Tom Stoppard’s Acadia, and I would quote it here, but it wouldn’t do it justice. It is quite honestly the perfect end to the conversation, and Douglas reads it so well, I had a literal swelling of emotion. I’m telling you, this episode is a must-listen.
Check out The Clifton Duncan Podcast, on YouTube and Spotify. It is an incredible examination of powerful ideas, one that I highly recommend.