The Whirling Dance of Art and Science
The visual arts can be the path toward truth, just as the study of DNA processes opens our understanding of human variations. The question is how strongly you hold to one path or the other. In retrospect I should have titled this blog: There is still time to do something other than art. That’s the cynic in me alerting you that the probability of great success as an artist is low.
But if you don’t care what the odds are, if you’re committed to pursue your artistic muse, if you don’t care if you never sell your creations, if you pursue the visual arts as a hobby and not a profession, if you are financially secure, then I bow to you and nothing I say is relevant.
If you are not up to your neck in art already and are wondering what great artists may be like (aside from loony, perhaps) I offer my Seven Forces of Change that could be relevant or at least lead to a better understanding of why some do well in an unpredictable environment and why others fail.
My main message when I go deeper is that art is critical for digging out universal truths, more so than with science. Looking for truths in this world is what makes the visual arts so important. It’s not that the visual arts are beautiful — they don’t have to be. Art doesn’t have to entertain you or others either — you can’t depend on that. Nor does superior art have to closely represent what you see in nature — a camera is better.
What art is, I believe, is a “hands-on” method for pushing the artist and the observer toward truths — truths about you, your evolutionary origins, truths about the sublime, the ridiculous, and, yes, the evil that lurks in us. Art is a method, then, one that is akin to psychoanalysis portrayed by Freud and June that may reflect the roots of psychological truths.
I don’t believe that truths are relative and that there is no absolute meaning about anything. Study the history of art and you see what men and women have been telling us. The artists of antiquity rolled out the truths about us long before DNA spelled out our diversity and potential. The truths they spotlighted, especially in the Renaissance and beyond, were about fear, joy, relations, what is and is not possible, stains in our nature as well as the altruistic and enviable traits. Art was about desires, cravings, the visage of new things, the sympathy with humankind and with other animals and even plants. It was about pleasure, faults, fatal flaws, sacrifices, and dire circumstances. It was about a spiritual need and possible redemption.
I am not suggesting that early artists always reached the level of truths — no — but they did dedicate themselves to a method that was likely to get to that level. That possibility is ours to share today.
In short, our ancestors around the world shouted at us with charcoal, pencil, paint, and marble to pay attention to what we are and what we might be. Art did not deliver us from anxiety, hardships, and emotional lusts. Instead, it told our story as truth would have it, linking common thoughts and understanding. It also tore down the barriers that prevented us from asking the tough questions and delivering the punch lines that instilled a sense of freedom and a universal nature.
In my opinion, art has always moved ahead of science and it still remains as our last path to truth and self-acceptance. The implication is that artists have the responsibility to be honest as they probe the unknown. They cannot not lie or try to justify our condition. They must tell us what they find and what they think. The story of mankind is long and deserves our best efforts to tell it as we believe it to be.
Bets on the moment must favor science that turns on logic and accumulated developments. But no matter how empowering and sophisticated science and technology may become the choice points in science will remain controlled by humans. Even if robots excel our limited brain capacity, science still contains the demons of its own destiny.
As I write at the moment we witness the fragility of science to cope with determined people who wish us dead. It takes very little to push us right back into the Middle Ages where hope was slim and lives were so easily lost. Doug Casey, in his newsletter, The Casey Report, shows us the human conflict:”It has been said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But there’s a big problem for you and me as individuals. At the moment, we all have very finite lifetimes. What if (even thought medical advances are extending our life expectations radically) we die before magic happens?”
I’ll continue this theme next week and will try to outline the Seven Forces of Change that may shape the lives of great artists.