We have to reawaken our desire for meaning and our quest for beauty.
We express our humanity through the arts. They explore our deepest thoughts, feelings, desires, and values. Art mirrors the attitudes of the culture.
So look around you, what do you see, hear, and feel around you? You may see some simple, makeshift Ikea furniture and a mug with a quote on it. You may turn on the radio and hear some song two-chord song about getting drunk. Perhaps you have a decorative painting on your wall of some sweet textured blobs. What does that tell us about our values as a culture?
Visual communication fascinated me so much that I became an art teacher. I have found complexity in seemingly meaningless works of art, but I have also realized that our culture needs to reacquaint itself with meaning and with soul.
This striking realization hit me as I watched Fergie sing her new song, “MILF Money,” on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. I laugh thinking about an intellectual 2,000 years from now analyzing our culture the way we analyze the Ancient Egyptians. MILF Money: ” Where is their God? Where are their scholars? Apparently, they valued hedonism, sex, and older women with big boobies.” ..Okay, anyway, so, we live in a culture where anything goes in the arts.
The bigger question is: “What are we searching for and how can we do it through the arts?”
The 20th century marked the “death of God” and the rise of reason. After the world wars people struggled for meaning and artists thew out ALL rules. An artist even packaged human feces in a can and called it art. We can only go without structure for so long without realizing that everything is meaningless without it.
I would say we are searching for meaning — which is reflected in beauty. In our culture, we see the Left pushing for a complete dissolution of labels and structure. Then, we see the Right pushing back with overly ridiculous rules and regulations. A complete dissolution of labels makes everything meaningless and forceful labels make everyone suffocate without expression or compassion. We need to strike a balance between the two extremes and we can do so through the arts.
So how can we make art meaningful and relocate our collective Soul?
Many people have been quoting Meryl Streep, who quoted Carrie Fisher: “Take your broken heart and make it art.” This phrase speaks to us all because that is what we have to do, but how?
Use beauty –or lack of beauty– appropriately
Beauty is whenever we get the dance between order and disorder right. It is whenever we are able to take a bunch of random elements, mash them together, and make them sing. Yes, it is subjective, but you know something is beautiful whenever many people are able to distill meaning from it. That’s why the Sistine Chapel can bring people of all faiths to tears. It communicates truth. Beauty is built on some structure. If you’re going to create something that completely throws structure away perhaps you should have a reason that is otherwise clearly communicated, so that people can distill meaning from it. Beauty allows many people to see artwork, hear music, and understand it. It resonates with them automatically.
Use our expression to communicate clearly to a large audience (including lay people)
Does our language communicate clearly and eloquently? Can people who are not educated on the arts understand what we are communicating with our visual art? Does our music resonate with a large audience?
Make it count.
Donald Trump was elected partly because people are seeking order. I do not agree with his rhetoric or opinions, but we have to consider why he was elected. In the past, we have thrown out complexity and beauty in the arts and exchanged it for disorder and simplicity. This leaves a hole in our culture and a hole in our Soul. People have been trying to fill this void with legislation and Donald Trump. Meaningful art can fill this void in a way nothing else can. It can teach people and give people a truth to strive for.
So use your art to reflect emotions in a way that dances between structure and dissolution, so that all people can find balance. We need to encourage people to find balance.
We simply have to bring beauty back because beauty is truth. It is the middle ground. the soul.
If you disagree, I would love to exchange ideas and perhaps redefine the ideas I’ve put forth here. What do you think about this? Leave you thoughts below.
P.S. – These thoughts were inspired by the work of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.