Do we need art in our lives?
The question asked not too long ago by my fourteen year old daughter, tugged a few thoughts and most importantly, led to some valid questions.
What does art do for someone who is busy trying to make his ends meet or who is desolate?
I didn’t have to think long. I closed my eyes and remembered the national anthem of India. Written in less than an hour by Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore, its effulgent, precise words tie the endless diversity of the entire nation in a few lines. It leaves me speechless and numb with my hands folded in prayer, a tear held in my eye, every time I hear it. It fuels inspiring thoughts no matter how useless I have been feeling before. It makes me believe that I am more than what meets the eye. It rekindles my relevance by illustrating the culture I represent, the progression I hold and the promise I carry.
When I pick up Thoreau’s Walden, Gibran’s Prophet or Hesse’s Siddhartha – I see my deep, sublime thoughts of life, illness and death laid out in sacred text; the ones I am unable to express and even realize despite numerous permutations. That is the acumen of a maestro. That is his craft. No convolutions but an exalted version of life that tickles your blood, shoots a thousand imaginations and explores an exotic part of you. Any given day, I can pick any of these books or others and start reading from anywhere. It has never failed me or anyone, as far as I know.
Art inspires a hunger to go beyond, to stretch the limits and know more. It is capable to pick you from the whirlpool of everyday misery and boredom. Its inherent knowledge lights the desire to take risks, to evolve, to let go, to galvanize a broken spirit. It fills the left over spaces and ambiguity of life with an altruistic beauty.
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. -Aristotle
How can one determine its quality? What sets the bar?
Art has no option but to be the best. Otherwise, it is useless. It has to be avant grade so that when you experience it – even for a flicker – you leap from your dusted presence into an intense, clear moment of individualism. It separates you in time and in situation – boosting your intellectual capacity by giving a glimpse of your own soul.
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. ~Anais Nin
Sometimes, on glossy, expensive magazine covers, I see an undecipherable painting sold for millions of dollars. While my exposure on such art is limited, I have come to believe that the quality of best art is never misunderstood. It is clear as water, ready to dissolve and be one with its recipient.
To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that it is very good but that most people can’t eat it. ~Leo Tolstoy
In the past, I have listened to music with esoteric lyrics. Yet it lifted me. It filled me with happiness. It made me crave for more. Art in its best form is the precise stroke of brush, the absolute verse or the subtlest note that exhibits a certain exquisiteness which cannot be concealed. It always, most unmistakably, finds its aperture to awe you. Like nature, your spiritual presence in the universe. Like faith. Like God.
Art, even in its best form, cannot feed a starving man, nor can it save another from suffering. Agreed. However, it can give a moment of purpose; it can tickle a longing and it can bring you closer to your true self.
Art is anything you can do well. Anything you can do with Quality. – Robert M. Pirsig
In nutshell, we do not need art to merely survive but we need it in order to thrive, to evolve, to believe and to live.