What is art? Why is this seemingly random act of creation found in every society? Why is it cherished, lauded, idolized? Why is it important?
I suppose, for myself, as someone who dares to claim the lofty title of “artist” on at least some small level, it is that last question that rings the loudest. Why is my writing important? Or perhaps more truthfully phrased: Is it important? I write because it is a passion, a compulsion, even an obsession at times. I write because I have to, not because I believe anything I have to say is necessarily important. But, understandably enough, I would still like think it is important. Like most members of the human race, I would like to be able to lay my head against the coolness of my pillow every night, knowing I’ve done something to make a difference in the world—to shed light on darkness—to bring joy in the face of pain—to exchange justice for injustice. But in comparison to the life-saving skills of a surgeon or the soul-saving words of a great minister, my writing seems a paltry accomplishment indeed.
At the very least, I am only an entertainer, spinning make-believe out of the web of imagination. Maybe someone will smile over a funny line of dialogue; maybe my tragic closing scene will wring a tear or two; maybe some turn of phrase will even give someone a new outlook on something. But, the chances are great that my words will be read and forgotten in a few weeks time. Not so very important in the overall scheme of things, is it?
My answer is a simple and absolute: Yes, it is. Aside from its undeniable moral and intellectual influence, art, in any form, is a timeless celebration and commemoration of life.
All of life is an expression. From the moment of our births, we are constantly expressing ourselves—our personality, our moods, our paradigms, our opinions. In a nutshell, one might say that life is expression. And what is art but concentrated expression? In art, our feelings and our experiences explode onto the page (or the canvas or the screen or the keys of a piano) with colors heightened and sounds undiluted.
In art, I am allowed to step beyond my own body, my own existence. When I read a powerful book or listen to a beautiful piece of music, I am given the gift of experiencing things beyond my own understanding. I will never walk the streets of Dickens’s London, I will never know the martial glory of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” And yet... I have.
I cannot possibly hope to experience everything this world has to offer before I run out of life—nor would I want to. But, in art, I can experience everything. I thrive on music and movies, paintings, and photography—and, of course, the written word. I love beautiful things, intense things, no matter their manifestations.
Art isn’t a waste of life. It’s a celebration of life. Every moment spent with art, in whatever form, is a moment lived to the fullest.
And so, I write. Very likely I will never write anything of lasting import. My outlook on life is probably not so very unique, my ideas not so very brilliant. I hardly expect to dispel darkness, pain, and injustice with the wave of my Pilot EasyTouch pen. All of those intangibles are rather too large for one person to even hope to dent. But I can celebrate the life God has given me in the best way I know do it, and I can share my celebration with those around me.
A life unshared is a life wasted. For those of us with a gift and a passion for the arts, we have the honor of sharing our lives on a broader stage than that which is given to most people. Some of us may reach national or even international acclaim, some of us may actually does make a dent in that darkness. Most of us, however, will work away in the solitude of our own homes, our words reaching out to perhaps only our family and friends.
Speaking for myself, the ultimate destination of my work does not concern me. That is a decision left to a higher power. What does concern me is that, even if only one person can relate to what I have written, what I am sharing—if only one person can join me in my celebration of experience—then the work I have loved and labored over has fulfilled its purpose.
- April 27, 2008
- K.M. Weiland
- Posted in Art