Well, I know most people don’t think so. I encounter this daily when people dismiss my work and central focus of my life as a “hobby”. Something nice to be done on weekends when the children are in bed. Something that certainly is less important than exercise, or cleaning, or “real work”, or money, or people, or – let’s say – washing the car. Music lessons are the first thing to be dropped when a student’s grades are slipping. Not soccer practice.
It seems that our society deems art to be something like embroidery on a rain coat. It might be pretty to look at, but it isn’t necessary, and maybe it impedes its function. Art is what gets added when everything else is finished like the icing on a cake.
I believe that this notion is utterly wrong. I believe that art is central to human existence.
Just for the sake of this post let’s forget about any distinction between craft and art. The line is hard to draw anyway. When we don’t draw it for now, we can say that there always has been art. For as long as we can say anything about human beings. Cave paintings, decorations on pottery, carved bones, embellishments on everyday objects all tell a story of mankind’s quest for beauty and for something to transcend everyday life.
I know that art isn’t all about beauty and that creativity doesn’t equal art but while creativity might be capable of many things it is always art’s source. To me it’s what connects us to the universe, and God, and the Buddha nature of everything, but that’s only me. To the parents of my students music, which is a form of art, is often a means to an end, a way to better grades, a way to conquer ADD, or a way of making use of the piano that clutters the living room.
The point I’m trying to make here is that not only would life be poorer without art but that art is more than embellishment, that one may or may not have, but that it belongs to the core of things that make humans human. Granted, water, food, clothing, and shelter are all more important than art. But the next thing on the list would be social contact, love and friends and such. And this would bring stories, and songs, and dancing with it, and the next thing you know people are making pots just to look at them, embellish their clothes, and paint the walls of their houses.
We all try to be so utilitarian. So we have to find reasons why making art is good for us. And by being good for us we mean that ultimately it will help us make money. I won’t go much into the notion that money is a real thing instead of a contract, but it all comes down to justifications like, “When our kindergardeners spend a lot of time preparing and then acting in the school play it will help them get better grades in school which will help them to go to college and then make more money when they grow up.”
What I’d love to see is a time when people will be able to justify their pursuit of art by saying, “This is what human beings do. It makes us happy. In making us happy it makes all the people around us a bit happier too and that is good for society.”
End of sermon. But well, I had to write something dear to my heart as the first post on the new blog. Thank you for coming to my new place. I hope you like it. And if you would like the posts to have more space for better reading you could click on the left of the very, very, very small grey buttons on the top of the post. This will make the sidebars go away.
And do me a favor. Please enjoy some art today. Look at a painting, or a photograph, listen to music, whatever. Better yet, paint something, sing, play your guitar, take a picture. Yes, I mean you. I know you can do it.