02/22/2012 05:15 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2012

A Banquet for the Senses -- Day at the Museum

"Do you suppose she's wearing underwear?" Lola whispered, her query only loud enough for my ears.

The woman in question was a statuesque Greek goddess of a gal, sitting bewitchingly on a stone outcropping with her elbow poised on one shapely knee. Just below her, coming up the path, strode a handsome youth with love, or at least lust, in his eyes.

And all in two dimensions...

The scene was a painting, and a rather famous one at that, although Lola and I couldn't have told you the artist before or after we gazed on it. The vamp of Macedonia, or whatever she was called, had captured our imaginations in a way befitting schoolgirls. As two serious professionals, Lola and I reveled in snickering like a couple of 12-year-olds in the back of a hushed church. We had come to the museum to gawk as well as giggle; irreverence aside, we knew the presence of greatness when we saw it.

Our outing was to the Art Institute of Chicago, a wondrous museum of art from around the globe: Asian statues and Egyptian sarcophagi; European masters and American icons. For Lola and myself, the day spent together was a true gift, one that is certainly more welcome that any "thing" we might exchange for a birthday or holiday. At mid-life, we've reached the age when we deeply appreciate time spent with each other, making memories and sharing a few laughs, while also steeping our senses in the finest of art.

Writers both with creative pursuits on the side, Lola and I go to the museum like humble pilgrims to stare and marvel at how the masters could perform such artistic alchemy as to turn paint into light that reflects in the eyes or drapes of velvet begging to be touched; canvases that you could walk into and then proceed along palatial corridors and across wide plazas to look out over the sea.

We saw medieval altarpieces and also modern works that looked like Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso had an argument that ended badly for both for them. Thus, for us, it was the Impressionists and the Realists, with birds that looked like birds and people whose eyes and noses were in the right places, even if they were a bit green thanks to Toulouse Lautrec.

And so we wandered, nibbling here and feasting there, our eyes widening to take it all in.
Art feeds the senses like nothing else. Fine art, to me, is a banquet. A yearly outing to the Art Institute, which Lola and I always vow to visit more often (and sadly sometimes get to less frequently than that), raises our sights higher than our ordinary world.

For anyone pursuing either a life or a pastime of creativity and purpose, a regular dose of art is necessity. Perhaps for you, the play's the thing, or maybe opera, ballet or recital. Whatever uplifts and inspires you, partake of it liberally and often.

You and I and Lola may never be in that pantheon. To be sure, you could easily become intimidated into numbness by such greatness. But I'd opt to be inspired instead. Know that most of those masters at one time or another also struggled, no matter how briefly, with their human limitations, unsure of themselves and their expression. They looked at the world as you and I do and tried to express it in words, image, or music. They didn't give up -- genius found its way.

Seeing what other humans can create with passion and intensity (and the right genetic proclivity) does make one wonder: What could I do? If I let my Muse have her way with me, like a siren sitting on a rock with her skirt askew, what could I possibly dream or create? Who and what would I become?