Why Art Is Important.
I received an email recently asking a good question and bringing up a point to back it up. The point made was that art is not necessary to the existence of man. That had me asking the question: Why is art important?
I write quite a few articles about the business component of art, and I’ve written a couple about the mindset component of it, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about the concept of art itself.
Human beings are not just their bodies.
This is something that’s forgotten over and over and over in societies. Humans are not simply evolutionary accidents. We are separate from animals, particularly in the fact that we have cultural identity and memory, as separate from simple pack instinct. We are not content simply to consume things and survive. (Although our corporate overlords would be more than content for us to simply be this kind fo creature.)
At some point we arrive at ideas that we find to be worth remembering. The way we choose to codify things we want to remember is through the arts. We write books and draw pictures and tell stories, and make every meaningful effort we can to pass worthwhile ideas (and sometimes warnings) down to the people who will live beyond us.
Controllers and manipulators of every kind will make every effort they can to destroy history or otherwise cause us to ignore it. The arts, properly used, are a tool to fight against this insidious plot to remove our humanity. Quite often in our modern world we have specifically enshrined and often point attention to works like 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. (Though I don’t see Animal Farm get quite so much of the attention that it should get.)
Art Grabs Attention In A Way Science Cannot.
We understand subconsciously to a certain extent that there is a force in the world that hates humanity and wants to abuse it. We create all kinds of art to remind us of this point, and to remind us that we are meant for more than to simply exist, survive, and die. There is more to humankind than just the material and the arts are a clear and undeniable mark of our ontological uniqueness as human beings as opposed to other life forms.
Bear in mind, none of what I am saying is as an attempt to denigrate science, or to assert it as unimportant. But a hyperfocus on science as the pinnacle of social good, and the measure of all worth, or even as an ultimate force that ought to define our lives, is not a good idea.
My wife is a scholar. She spends a lot of time reading old books and thinking about the things they have to say to the world. She and I have had a lot of conversations about the place and importance of the liberal arts and the arts at large, and how a latent hyperfocus on science and engineering are damaging to society on a level of turning people into a machine for survival and not bothering to interact with the questions of “why are we here” and “what is the meaning of life”.
Art Discusses Ideas That Science Cannot Interact With.
Science is good. Science delivers a lot of conveniences and means for easy and comfortable survival. But it does not posses the categories to handle the deep questions of meaning and significance. Science can provide information that feeds into how we each individually process those questions, but it cannot solve them.
Why do we want to live? Why are certain things right or wrong? Do we remember the things that our ancestors learned? Do we remember the reasons for their successes? Their mistakes?
Do we know what the point of it all is?
Science as a discipline cannot categorically handle these issues. The arts, particularly the arts that result in excellent books and things like great monuments or unforgettable paintings, are the best attempts to take these questions and make marks on humanity about them.
The Destruction Of Works Of Art Is A Red Flag.
Burning books, tearing paintings, and toppling statues are problems as a general rule.
Please don’t take this to mean that I think all things presented as works of art are good, right, and acceptable. There is such a thing as evil in the world, and I think we should spend very little time or energy glorifying that evil.
But we should understand those evils. Because we choose to destroy, ignore, or ridicule uncomfortable truths, or inconvenient history passed down to us through our art, we reject the possibility of doing better. We choose to shun inconvenient truths and embrace what is at best entertaining lies and at worst outright evil.
To Only Hear One Group Is To Be Lied to And Controlled.
An artist I generally respect would be one Mr. George Alexopolous, and you can find his work right here on his Twitter. George is very good at ridiculing nonsense on the part of anyone who is living or aiding and abetting lies or manipulation. He is an example of someone who was outright cancelled and his career nearly destroyed because he believes in ideas that, while not evil, are looked down upon because he doesn’t abide by what seems to be a more “left” bent in mainstream comic art.
His art lately takes ideas espoused by mainstream politicians and news outlets and takes them directly to their most absurd logical conclusion. It’s an effective model! Both because it’s entertaining, but it also causes us to have to look things in the eye that we’re not comfortable with. In his case he causes us to examine whether our leaders are really on our side, whether people in power are really telling us the truth, and whether Americans, specifically, are as free as they think. His work is challenging for modern people, and even if you don’t like the work, it’s making points that are worth discussing.
George is an equal-opportunity ridiculer, as well. He does not regard conservative or liberal concepts or leaders as sacred This is because he understands if that one part of a population cannot express and assert their convictions, then nothing is safe from persecution.
Art, Correctly Used, Provokes Thought and Effects Social Preservation.
There are good uses and bad uses of art. Art is not some mystical label that magically elevates everything underneath it. But it is still a unique outlet from which things like joy, conviction, ennoblement, inspiration, education, or just simple relief from trouble can spring and be transmitted throughout the world and stake itself down throughout the ages.
Art may not preserve physical life like food or medicine. It cannot increase the convenience of life like engineering or design. Art is not capable of processing information and making sense of it the way mathematics can.
But art buries itself into the soul and changes that soul, for better or worse, in a more powerful and profound way than any simple piece of information can. Whether the art is written, spoken, sung, or painted, it has a much more direct route into the heart than any power except offering direct, necessary, and absolutely free service or help to another human being.
Art is important.
Bonus Take: Scientists Get Their Best Ideas From Art
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