Photos would have been nice, Mr. Johnston.
Certain things in this world should be sacrosanct. One of them is art.
I cannot draw or paint or sculpt. I play with my rocks and make jewelry, and I use words to create whatever it is I create with them. But there is no jealousy in me for those who can create the truly magnificent, the sublimely lovely, the heart-stoppingly beautiful. I am amazed, constantly, by the wondrous things people create.
Fifteen or so years ago, when I was finishing up my master's program at Arizona State University, one of my courses was titled "Evolution of Ideas: Art and Science." The professor brought incredible ideas to the class, but few of the students showed much interest. Sadly, she had so little control over the class that some students talked on their cell phones, making arrangements for drinks after class, during the discussions. More than once I had to turn to the moron behind me and ask him to shut up.
At the end of the semester, we were required to give 15-30 minute presentations on a subject taken from a long list provided by the instructor. I have always been fascinated by prehistoric cave art, ever since learning about the bulls of Altamira when I was in grade school. Therefore I quickly signed up to do my presentation on cave art.
I put together a Powerpoint slide show with over 50 examples of the different types of prehistoric art as well as information on how science was used to date the works. Included were not only the bulls of Altamira but the horses of Chauvet and the handprints of Peche-Merle, the petroglyphs of Australia and Africa and Easter Island and Nevada.
Most of the presentations went more or less as expected: Neither the students presenting nor those listening really cared very much. The usual chatter went on unabated; one student -- who insisted everything be referenced to the Bible -- slept through several. At the end, when the presenters asked if there were any questions, there never were any, unless the professor asked for clarification.
So I was prepared for a similar reception, and I really didn't care. I had enjoyed my research, enjoyed collecting the illustrations. Though most of the presentations barely stretched to the minimum 15 minutes, I knew mine went a full 20 or maybe more. And I knew it was good.
Even so, I was surprised when the room went dead silent after the first couple of slides. The chatter ceased. The Bible guy woke up. They were actually paying attention! And at the end there were questions, lots of them. I went past the 30 minutes, but no one seemed to care.
Because deep down, I firmly believe, there is something not just universal but timeless about art, and it speaks to the universal in all of us.
Those who willfully destroy art, who ignore the pleas of others to save what can easily be saved for future generations, are beyond redemption. Whether they are the Taliban destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the looters of Baghdad destroying the Museum, ISIL destroying Palymra, or Donald Trump destroying the Art Deco of Bonwit Teller, they are beyond forgiveness. They are worse than barbaric; they are soulless.