Art and Amusement
Amusement seeks to distract the viewer from her everyday life, to give them restful pause. It detaches the auditor from meaningful life, at least in any long-term, or deeply felt, way. It quiets the audience without pain; it heals by numbing.
Art on the other hand stirs passion up; it hurts before it heals. That is why art endures and amusement vanishes quickly. The latter, amusement, is a topical salve; the former, art, is eternal healing.
Art engages the audience; it forces them to consider their depth and breadth of their own inner and outer lives. It seeks to make the viewer ruminate inwardly on the relevance of the work of art to the fullness of themselves.
It does so by first stirring (whether consciously or unconsciously...it doesn't matter) the audience's deepest emotions, by forcing them to confront in the work of art their self-image (once again, either consciously or unconsciously...the value accrues in either circumstance), to see closely who and what they are, what are the benefits and costs of their most personal beliefs, values and inner structure (sense of aesthetics).
In art, when the deepest passions have been thus stirred, thereby ratcheting up the viewer's inner demons and conflicts to almost unbearable and imbalanced portions, only then does the work allow the viewer to rest; and most often exhausted; or, as in John Milton's famous image (at the close of his dramatic poem, "Samson Agonistes"): "...with calm of mind, all passion spent."
Great art takes courage to behold; it is fully and tumultuously participatory. It fractures the viewer's certainty before putting it together again...and generally in a new way.
Amusement on the other hand can be...it is designed to be...held at arm's (and heart's and soul's) length. In amusement, when Humpty falls, he never fractures. He just gets a bump in the head.
In art, however: "...and all the King's horses and all the King's Men could never put Humpty-Dumpty together again"...except in the subliminal--and eternal-- ensuing political and personal lesson learned (even in a nursery rhyme!) by the audience young and old : when you fall from too high a (moral, ethical) wall, you may never recover your wholeness again.
Art reveals the complexities of life. Amusement renders them (purposely; too) simple.