Purely conincidentally, I was reading the always interesting Alain De Botton last night before bed – and while discussing Schopenhauer (above) he hit on a point connected to the one I was trying to make in my previous post. As he points out in the passage below, artists and philosophers “express our own experiences more poignantly and more intelligently than we are able”. Ironically, Alain does just that in relation to my earlier post on mythology & artists:
“Works of Art & Philosopy give us an objective view of our own pains and struggles, evoking and defining them through language, sound or image. Artists and philosophers not only show us how we feel, they express our experiences more poignantly and more intelligently than we are able; they give shape to experiences that we recognize as our own but that we could never understand so clearly on our own. They describe our condition and thereby make us feel less lonely with, and confused by, it….Creative works allow us brief insight into our woes, which lessen feelings of alarm, isolation (even persecution) by them.” The Consolations of Philosophy, p.199.
For me at the moment, at least, I can see no greater value in art than an alleviation of “feelings of alarm, isolation and even persecution” – it’s postively essential. And with that said, I’m off to listen to Colin Stetson…
A long running obsession with mythology came to a head about 3 years ago when I discovered Joseph Campbells series of books called “The Origin of Myth”.One of the first points in volume one hit particularly close to home as I worked toward helping musicians and labels with their businesses. To make a “very” long story short, Joseph suggested that artists were the medicine men and witch doctors of modern society. In “Primitive Mythology”, he describes how the ancient magicians, who were marginally if not totally psychotic interpreted the events of the world for the community, often taking prolonged journeys to other worlds, communing with spirits and always looking and interpreting the world in a fundamentally different way – and often returning with a boon of knowledge or insight that changed the perspective of the other members of the group. What struck me was the role of these storytellers, these mysterious journey-men, to guide people on a path to self-discovery, to greater understanding of themselves, the universe and each other. Great art does just this – in it’s most beneficial form, great art is quite literally transcendental. The ability to engender a fundamental shift in another person’s consciousness is no less valuable today than it was 5,000 years ago – and just as magical.