Let me show you my best painting secret!
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This has to be the message our children carry forward or we will see the same old cycles of destruction and prejudice.
Now I realise that the title of this post may suggest some philosophising is in the offing. That would be true. Perhaps it sounds pretentious (it does) however I could not think of something more catchy so indulge me. I have been reading Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes A brilliant novel based on the author's experiences in the Vietnam war. I know that this subject may not appeal to everyone, but it is an exceptional book. In any case the author, through his main character, considers the nature of humanity. This made me think about art.
War is of course terrible and foolish. In extreme conflict humans are capable of evil deeds, which is one reason why wars are so awful. Being human we are blessed with the ability to care - and cursed too. For us to perceive evil we must be able to care and love first of all. What if we were indifferent like other animals? Would there be wars? Apart from a scuffle over food or some other basic need life would go on just fine. Hunting too would be an indifferent activity. Maralantes argues that it is our ability to care that brings us joy and misery.
Caring for others makes us human, but more importantly there is love. The Greeks understood that love came in different forms. The most important being Philia - love for your fellow human. Love thy neighbour. The least important to the Greeks was eros - love of the romantic kind that we modern westerners seem so besotted over. What is the abscence of love? Not hate, but indifference. Life can get along just fine in an indifferent world as animals and plants prove. Humans are a recent development in the grand scheme of the world, but love has turned us into something altogether different.
How does this relate to art? Well if love is not essential for life on earth then what about art? Why bother with art at all? Many school systems drop art altogether especially in high school since it is viewed as unimportant. At best a luxury. But this does not make sense at all.
We create art because we are human. We also love because we are human. To reject art or to be indifferent to art is to reject our humanity. Creating art is an act of love too. Love for the process of creating and love for fellow humanity by sharing that art with others is essential. It could be a painting or a designer chair, whatever. By creating art we are respecting our highest emotional state - love.
When art is marginalised I suggest we are doing ourselves and especially the youth a great disservice. It is one of the reasons why media only equates love with sex. It is also a recipe for conflict.
Ultimately we are missing the point about what we should be fostering among ourselves. Instead of cheapening love let us look what humans are capable of. Creating art is something we can share with others and thereby demonstrate our love for our fellow humans. This has to be the message our children carry forward or we will see the same old cycles of destruction and prejudice.
Art and appreciation for art is critical. It is part of what makes us human.