attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

Do we really need a reason?

I seem to have a lot of friends (and readers) (and reader friends) who have some difficulty articulating why they need art for art's sake to friends and family (I'm guessing a lot of family).  I can appreciate this - a lot of people (I would go so far as to say most of society) these days seems to have a terribly practical bent, wherein things with no immediately obvious use are dismissed as unimportant.

I get very sad when people apologize for making things that aren't "useful" - what, after all, does "useful" even mean?  I find things that make me happy are very useful indeed, and I have a tendency to surround myself with them all the time.  While I could make the argument that my embroidered frog needle-case is useful, insofar as it holds needles, I never intended to use it as an everyday item - I wanted to make it, for the sheer joy of making it.  I might make another one, I might not; it depends on how I feel.  I certainly don't need two needle-cases (actually, I have about ten at this point - some antique, some new), but why should that stop me?  And I'm not neccessarily going to be "practical" and give the other one away.  It's mine, I made it, maybe I want to keep it.

I think people really need to give themselves permission to create, and to enjoy what they create without having to justify it.  It's just terribly hard to do so when the people around you call it "wasting time" (as in "why are you wasting your time making macrame plant holders when we don't have any plants?  You should be doing something useful with your time!").

Admit it:  Doesn't your stomach just cramp up with irritation reading that?  Isn't it infuriating when someone dismisses your creativity because they can't see any usefulness in it?  I'm here right now to tell you they're wrong. Waste all the time you want, because - surprise! - time spent creating is never wasted.

We are tool-using animals - we evolved to make things with our delightfully manipulable opposable thumbs.  When we spend our days doing everything but creating, I think we go into a kind of emotional deficit, and the lack of "hand time" makes us slowly crazy.  Some of us need to work with our hands more than others, but everyone needs to do it.  Shopping and watching TV, no matter how fun, don't fulfill the same function as building

(I have a theory that the popularity of computer games is due in part to this creative streak - after all, building a high score or solving a puzzle game takes skill, and results in a feeling of accomplishment, much like our macrame plant holder - and gets accused of being a time waster, too.)

The thing is, art has a real purpose - it evokes feelings in us, makes us think in different ways, introduces us to new and challenging concepts, and, on a more personal level, satisfies feelings that cannot be sated any other way. We respond from a very early age to the invitation to create - it's how, as children, we make our first mark on the world (usually on the walls).  When we make something, we're saying "I am here, I exist". 

The trouble we have with people who don't seem to get it is twofold:  The first part is people who have been taught to think that unless something has monetary value, it is worthless - if you can't make a buck off it, why do it?  they ask, and you can't always give them an answer they'll understand, because their value system is so different from yours. 

(This is where the idea of collecting things comes in.  Currently, the "collectible" market is all about what kind of money you can get for the thing you collect, not surrounding yourself with kooky things that make you happy.  In that sense, the three million Hummel figurines your mother's second cousin collects are an "investment".  If lunchboxes weren't actually worth anything - they're not, btw - no-one would be collecting them.)

The glib answer is that by buying supplies, you're keeping the economy going.   The more serious answer is that art isn't about making money, it's about making.  And the ultimate answer is "I make things so I don't kill someone" - art as stress-reliever.

(At least, that's my answer.  It's also less work than burying bodies.)

The second issue is that many people lack the empathy to understand that someone else may find value in something they don't - a gardener who finds a painter ridiculous, or (more often) a self-proclaimed "practical" person who refuses to give credence to the idea that "crafting" (and they always say it so dismissively, don't they?) is anything but a waste of time.

I liken them to the kind of people who smugly tell me that they have "no time for reading", as if that were something to be proud of.

Pity these people.  They will never understand the deeper meaning of the things they see around them, because they never stop to just experience something for its own sake.

Life should be joyful.  The idea that life is a grind, and dull, and should be work-oriented all the time, and that there is some mysterious reward for working yourself to death is stupid.  If you believe in a higher power, think of it this way:  What kind of God would put us on Earth amongst all this great stuff and then tell us not to make full use of it? 

Not one I'm interested in following, I can tell you that. 

One of the greatest things we can do with our short and lovely lives is to make beautiful things, no matter what anyone else says.  If you like cooking, cook.  If you like sewing, sew.  If your heart soars every time you finish a jigsaw puzzle, then do it - no apologies, no excuses.  There need be nothing more than that joy - you don't need to make money to justify it, and don't let yourself be guilted into giving it away for free if you want to keep the things you make.  Give it all away, if that's your bag - or make it into a business if being a business makes you happy.  But, and most importantly, don't let anyone stop you or make you give up what makes you feel good.  Don't ever let anyone else tell you what makes you happy - only you know your heart.

And you need to feed your spirit.  Consider the lilies of the field.  Then roll around in them some, if that makes you feel good.  Paint them.  Dress up in them.  Or turn around and play in the dirt instead.  But doing what makes you happy nourishes an essential part of your soul, and I don't think there's a worthwhile God (or person) out there that doesn't want you to be happy.

The rest of them can go to hell.  Where there is no creativity.
Tags: art, blah blah blah, creativity, deep thoughts
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