We have to live in the real world. Art should help us understand why that’s a good thing.
Have you heard of Neon Genesis Evangelion? If you have, you might be familiar with the name “Hideaki Anno”. He was one of the leadinng forces for the show, and as I understand it, he wanted to communicate to the world the dangers of escapism, and the cost of embracing escapism rather than existing in the real world and coming to grips with living here in the real world.
I believe that that is a necessary and noble thing to be presenting to the consumers of art in its various forms. We as artists have the power to steer the course of culture and change peoples lives through the power of our creations.
With great power comes great responsibility.Stan Lee. But you knew that already.
There’s not any getting around the fact that most people live very ordinary lives and have to struggle with ordinary things. And what is ordinary is certainly not easy to deal with.
And yet, it seems like the current age of creativity strives to grasp for peoples attention specifically for the purpose of asking that you waste time on the one thing rather than someone else’s thing. Directing people to simply exchange distractions is, I believe, morally wrong.
Time is precious.
The time of the artist is precious in that there is only so much that an artist can create in their lifetime, and the time of the consumer is precious, in that there is only so much that they can spend their life on. I as an artist hold that it is crucial that I respect the time of my consumers. They are, after all, choosing to expend their life on my work rather than someone else’s.
In mind of this, please understand that I am not advocating an anti-fun position. My friends and family will be the first to let you know that I am quite a silly person, and it is a mission of mine to be an uplifting force in the life of people that I spend my time around. (A mission that I could stand to better at, but still.)
My sister in law once had a conversation with my wife about Lord of the Rings and JRR Tolkien. Both my wife and sister-in-law are extremely intelligent people, and are more readily equipped to recognize themes and messages in stories than I am. In this conversation, the point came up that one of Tolkien’s aims may have been to extol the value of our ordinary lives, and to encourage us to live those lives in a full fashion, to encourage us to live striving for what is right, looking after our fellow men, and to recognize the value of our kindnesses to one another, and what those kindnesses mean in peoples’ lives.
It’s not right for people to live blurry lives characterized by distraction, and the artist shouldn’t be recklessly enabling such a lifestyle.
There is such a thing as objective truth. There is such a thing as a life well-lived. Art should extol the value of that objective truth. Art should encourage and ennoble people toward those objective truths. The greater an artist is, the heavier their responsibility is to execute on this heavy burden.
This heavy burden does not, of course, exist strictly as one mission. Man does not only ever need one thing.
Man needs encouragement. Man needs admonition. Man needs guidance. Man needs laughter.
We as artists must recognize the greater mission accorded to us by our gifts, and then pursue our place within that greater mission. When we pursue that mission, whether by causing man to face his folly, pointing man to good truths, or uplifting man through enabling joy and laughter without the expense of wasting his life, we are properly exercising the place of art in the lives of people.
When you develop and deliver clear and meaningful message that comes sincerely from you as the artist, your art is empowered and gives something of value to your audience, rather than simply asking them to give up their time for nothing.