Arts Contribution To Humanity
Art: that weird thing we all come across, interact with, and judge. Even though it’s something we deal with on an almost constant basis, art is very hard to define. It is such a weird concept, there are so many questions to ask: What is it? What is good art? Is one kind of art better than another? Is art even worth the effort or is it a waste of time? There are a wide range of answers to each of these questions, with some very passionate people on both sides.
I think that in order to see how important art really is, we first have to glance at pre-human history. It’s now believed humans’ ancient ancestors climbed down from the trees about four million years ago, beginning a long and winding path that would eventually lead to the intelligent, social animal we are today. There were many factors that contributed to our development of intelligence, the foremost being language. With words, we were able to communicate in a much more precise way than simple body language, giving us the ability to share detailed information amongst each other; knowledge of our surroundings and the goings on in our community group. These were the seeds for scientific inquiry and society, two of the greatest contributors to human success.
Human Power Of Togetherness
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, humans don’t have claws and teeth, nor do we have camouflage or thick hides. Humanity’s weapon of choice in the Battle of Life is togetherness. Our families and community groups are what we’ve used to survive. Think about the last time you had to move to a new home. I’m sure you called family and friends, promising them beer and pizza if they helped you move all your shit. It would have sucked doing all that work by yourself, but you were able to take the situation and make it severely less problematic by employing the help of those around you.
As our species evolved, our society got more and more complex, the invisible ties connecting us to everyone else becoming thicker and stronger. Again, language was playing a very large part in this. Through language, we could communicate to others things of necessity, like: “I’m about to die of starvation, can I have some food?” or “My kid, Jimmy, is stuck in a well, can you help me get him out?” Language served (and serves) us very well in these situations, allowing us to communicate concrete facts of the world. But not every situation deals with cut and dry details.
Alongside the development of humanity’s “socialness,” came the development of our emotions. Emotions of love for our family, anger at those who have wronged us, and joy in our shared successes propagated the intertwining of our feelings and emotions with society. But our emotions are very complex and difficult to communicate with others. They are abstract, and often confusing, making it very difficult to use language to really get our point across to others. Luckily, there was another aspect of ”humanness” that had grown and developed with us for untold years. We’ve seen evidence of our earlier attempts at it in caves throughout Europe. It occupies museums, schools, offices, homes; it pervades our society, and is still one of the more mysterious things one could examine today.
The Domestication Of Dogs
I’m sure you’ve guessed it: Dogs. The domestication of the canine was crucial in human history and has forever altered our evolutionary…. Ok, it was really art (though the domestication of dogs is pretty cool.) Art is in our lives almost constantly. The music you listen to; the books you read; the movies you watch; it’s everywhere. I think it’s pretty hard to argue that art doesn’t play a large part in our culture today, but one may still ask if that’s a good thing, or if it’s necessary.
We dedicate a lot of our resources to art today. The media industry, which could be argued as primarily artistic (one could argue against the News…) is a multibillion dollar entity in the US. Paintings change hands alongside massive sums of money, sometimes reaching into the millions of dollars. Churches sport statues and stained glass windows, renditions of past religious events; the examples are endless. But for something we dedicate so much time and money to, the benefits of art don’t seem to be immediately obvious. Sure we like our movies, and we enjoy our books… but what do we get out of art?
Weirdly, the answer to this question is the same as the answer for “What do we get out of science?” Out of art, we get knowledge and information. But, whereas science deals with information regarding facts of the world and information of our surroundings, art offers us facts about ourselves, and information of our interactions.
The Confused Process of Becoming
Sometimes, words just aren’t enough to really get your point across. Sometimes, the best way of expressing your thoughts and emotions to others is to simply make them feel it themselves. An experience I had a couple weeks ago will help demonstrate this: Two of my friends recently got married and held their wedding at the Columbus Museum of Art. I took advantage of our free-range of the galleries and wandered from room to room, drinking in the vast collection of amazing pieces. The one that had the most impact on me, however, was “The Confused Process of Becoming (Portrait of Roman Johnson)” by Emerson Burkhart. (http://www.columbusmuseum.org/blog/collection/the-confused-process-of-becoming-portrait-of-roman-johnson/) Painted in the 40’s, it depicts a young black man sitting in a chair, seemingly exasperated by life. As a soon-to-be college graduate pursuing a philosophy degree, I don’t really have one specific life direction yet (as opposed to someone coming out of pre-med or leaving with a business degree.) I am at the stage in my life where I am to become who I will be. Of course I have goals and dreams, but it is hard to pursue these while at the same time being a responsible person. Life is constantly throwing obstacles at me, making me constantly reevaluate my position, adjusting to accommodate for the daily and short-term needs that arise. It is extremely difficult to reach for my dreams while keeping my feet firmly on the ground. “The Confused Process of Becoming” really spoke to me, and made me realize just how difficult life really is.
“Yeah,” you say, “it’s great that the painting spoke to you, but did it really do anything for you? Did it offer solutions to your problems, or answers to your questions?” Of course this painting didn’t offer me concrete solutions to my problems, but it did something else, something arguably more important than offering simple answers. This painting helped remind me that I am not alone in my struggles against the world. Even though at times it seems like it, I’m not the only one to ever go through the confused process of becoming. Here, in front of my eyes, was a beautiful depiction of someone who was feeling just what I am feeling, going through exactly what I am. This painting showed me that the dark, wandering path I walk in life is not something I have to do alone, and that if I opened my eyes, there are way markers and other people around to support me.
Art is Human Synergy
What I want you to take from this story: Art is extremely important, in that it conveys information relative to our togetherness. When an art piece makes you feel, you gain a sense of comradery with the artist and those others who have also felt because of it. It helps you realize that you are not alone in the world with simply yourself to sift through the mass of emotions and feelings you experience. It helps you feel connected with the rest of humanity and strengthens the bonds between us; and as I said earlier, those bonds and our tendency to band together in the face of adversity is arguably our species’ greatest tool.