The evolution of human brain capacity brought with it a greater capacity to understand ourselves, both the good and the bad. Hints of what was to come is found in the dusts and ruins of French caves, where colored representations of the world are found on these ancient walls. It was the artistic ability to express our views of the world that led us toward a deep understanding of our unconscious self. More than 40,000 years later we have expanded our view, but in the expression of the fundamental nature of humans and other species, almost nothing has changed. It didn’t take Freud and Jung to unveil our nature, for it was there from our earliest evolution. What did change was our abilities to flash that nature on the walls of time and reach backward to our roots. Many other changes were taking place in our cognitive structure and function, but the pathway to understanding was genetically carved into our DNA under great pressures to survive and reproduce.
I believe that one of the best mechanisms for reaching the truths about ourselves is through the arts of music, sculpture, drawing and painting, dance, and creative writing. One does not need a Ph.D. or any particular technical ability to pull out those defining truths. One only needs the courage to go where others fear to tread, and the guts to stick it out even in the blackest of moments. My choice of drawing and painting is immaterial.
The 18th Century literatus Denis Diderot could have been reflecting on the artistic career of Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) when he cried out: “First move me, astonish me, break my heart, let me tremble, weep, stare, be engaged — only then regale my eyes.” Delacroix did those things. His profound vision was to present his paintings, not to amuse and entertain, but to lead the viewer to the depth of the soul. He looked and saw the human reactions that push forward for the brave regardless of where they take us. Those reactions rest at the junctions of our evolutionary struggle to survive. They are there to again tell us that the truth will set us free.
I want to expose this struggle through the visual arts, but it just as well comes from a study of the Bhagavad Gita, personal and spiritual quests, Promethean journeys, the martial arts, writing of novels, or any other activity that touches upon our evolutionary history. We must, at the same time, avoid subscribing to the politically correct notion that beauty is our goal and that our creations must above all be visually stunning and settle the mind. No, some may be and should be, but the point of our lives is not to add to the beauty around us but to form the concepts that open Pandora’s jar and lead us to a more complete understanding of our origin and our potentials. They, in their many forms can set us free.