Art and Literature
So the topic today is art and literature.
As you are aware there is a strong correlation between the two, with art inspiring literature and literature inspiring art, and there has also been a long tradition of combining the two. So we have art based on literary works, we have literary works that were inspired by art, and we have literary works that come illustrated with art. Going into the specifics of these could take a long time, and my focus today is on why I think art and literature matter, and how they relate to life.
Now did art come first or did literature? Well, before people developed a written language they had art – the earliest examples are the cave paintings from around the world – but again these paintings have a certain sophistication that points to a well-developed social culture – so even if there was no written language – or atleast not one that has survived – there probably was a tradition of oral story-telling. So, oral literature. This – and the art they made – encompassed their everyday lives, their experiences, their beliefs, their dreams, and so on – collectively becoming a record of their cultural history. In time, over generations, this came to be written down.
Each of us starts out with a cultural identity because of all the traditions of the past, and then, of course, we make our own contributions. But if we are to make any contribution of lasting value/significance, we need to be aware of what went before us – otherwise we would spend valuable time reinventing the wheel, you know? - and this is where art and literature can assist us. They equip us with the knowledge that can help take us forward.
Now, by literature, I don't merely mean the highly intelluctual works. I'm not sure actually that I care too much for that term, intellectual. I find it rather pretentious. I also feel that once you go up that path, caring more about those kind of labels, you are often in danger of insulating yourself from reality and objective reasoning. Besides it is not only the critically acclaimed works that can teach you something, you can learn a lot from all the others too, even the total duds – reading bad books, for instance, can teach you how not to write something, or can shine a light on the writer's incorrect, illogical thinking. Anyway, so by literature, I mean reading in general. This can be fiction or non-fiction, and not just books, it can be the news, online articles and blogs, on a variety of subjects – history, science, music, films, travel and a lot else. Don't limit yourself to art. The more widely you read the better. Reading allows you to know about more things and to experience more things than you normally would in your particular environment. As an individual your scope is generally limited. You wouldn't know half the things you know if it weren't for the experiences of other people, and a lot of the time the only way to learn about these is to read about them.
Similarly, looking at good art – which, of course, is a very subjective term, and may often depend on your personal aesthetics – but, anyway, looking at good art can broaden your scope. It is a way of looking at the world through the artist's eyes, and, also, a way of making you realize, if you haven't realized it already, that the same thing can be seen differently by different people and that there isn't always any one set way of going about doing something. That your way certainly isn't the only way. This can help you to see different points of views, and, so, develop empathy and a broader perspective. And this, in turn, is likely to open up your options, allowing you to make of your life what you want it to be. You become a more balanced person as a result and this is essential to thrive both as a human being and as an artist.
Now, the more original your personality and your mind, the more original your art and your writing. Because art and writing is not just about technique, you know, they are also about having a unique vision, about having something meaningful to express. So if you keep trying to conform to established touchstones, or if you have a herd mentality, you will not be producing anything other than rehashed content, and your work is not going to stand out. And another aspect of this is that unless you read, think, look clearly, question, there are likely to be more chances of your being misled in things that matter.
There are many instances, in your life, when people, oftentimes authority figures, will not want you to think too much, because your thinking can get in the way of their agenda, and so what is one of the first things that they will do? They will ban literature and art. They won't want you to see different viewpoints. They will only want you to see their viewpoint. So anything that doesn't agree with their viewpoint will be banned. They will encourage you to feel 'offended' by some writing or some artwork. Indeed, in many instances, it has become so customary to be offended that you don't even question why you are so offended. You may not even have read the book or seen the artwork that you're so offended by, or if you have read or seen it, you may not question how it affects your life to the extent that the works need to be banned or destroyed. No, you're just offended.
Now this is a dangerous way of being.
If you blindly accept what you are told, without questioning it, without trying to see how things can be perceived differently, without trying to come to an understanding of your own, without developing a certain level of tolerance for views that you don't agree with, well then, you effectively barricade yourself from any kind of progress. This is harmful to you as an individual, and, in the long run, it may prove harmful to society as a whole. Because you do see, don't you, that the only reason we have come so far is because there were people who questioned things, who challenged and changed the accepted thinking of their day.
So the whole point here is that you should read a lot, you should understand what you are reading, not just accept something because someone important or famous said it. Then you should see a lot of art, a lot of great art, and be inspired by it. Now by inspired, I don't mean copying it. You will only do yourself a disservice if you do that. No, take it as a step to explore and discover your own truths. And to do this, you will need to do a lot of art, everyday. It may not always come out good, but the more you do, the more practise you will get to do better and to be better the next time.
It is a continual process and there is no end to the learning. There will always be something new on the horizon, something that you should look into, something that could be of great benefit to you, and, having this, this constantly changing and expanding universe to explore and discover is what makes life so immeasurably interesting.