This will be another one of those that seemed to be writing itself as I lingered in that limbo realm between sleep and fully awake, before the little pretentious bureaucrat in my head said, “Right! Time to pee, then.” When words are drifting about in my mind like that, forming cogent sentences before I even know I’ve woken up, it’s a nice thing and I’ve learned to follow their lead. I suspect it had a little something to do with a movie I watched before going to bed, a dramatisation of the early life of artist Margaret Keane, and a need I’d felt to do something a little more creative. It won’t be completely self-indulgent, though, or at least I don’t think it will.
Ultimately, given the nature of the past year and the depth of our reflection over it as it comes to a close, you should be glad I’m not going with the exploration of excitatory and inhibitory neurons and their practical effects in real life, as I’d been considering. You’re welcome.
My privacy had always been, and still is to a degree, very important. That manifested in a number of ways, one of which was a relatively small list of Facebook friends that, for some reason, dramatically began increasing a few months ago as I began clicking on those suggested friends they keep tossing at you. There’s some kind of magical algorithm at work behind the scenes that picks profiles to suggest as belonging to people you know, and while sometimes it seems to make sense (the number of mutual friends appears to be a big factor) other times it can be the random mention of a place you made in a post 7 months ago. I began to actually glance at some of these, see something interesting, then shrug and click the friend request button. Whether that was proper social network protocol or not, I’m still not sure, but it was definitely counterintuitive to everything I’d done before. A little while later I began to think about what was happening, and maybe figure out a bit more about the why’s of it as well.
The people rapidly filling out my friends list were mostly poets, writers, and artists, a few musicians and playwrights as well. Sure, there were paramedics and injured folks, but they seemed to be more the exception than the rule, which was a bit of a paradigm shift for me. To be perfectly honest, I discovered that many of these creative souls were just as injured in one way or another, but that wasn’t really surprising and it certainly wasn’t the reason I’d added them.
What is art? What is its purpose, and why do we feel the need to create it, or simply appreciate it if we can’t? In the film Big Eyes, a pompous art critic played by Terence Stamp said, “Art is meant to elevate,” though he never suggested what. I like my explanations to be a bit more clear, if not particular detailed, and I have always thought that art, in whatever medium it’s in, is meant to inspire an emotional reaction in the viewer (reader, participant, listener), and whether that’s very subtle or very overwhelming, if it does that then it’s art and it’s successful.
There is a reason we are attracted to the various things we are attracted to, and it’s not always as basic as food, shelter, or the proliferation of our genes. There are almost 50000-year-old cave paintings in Spain and Indonesia, arguably done by someone as a hobby in his off-time. Maybe this is what artist Duffy Sheridan meant when he said in an interview that “Art is meant to elevate the human condition,” because we still look at these things with awe and wonder.
Okay, I’m getting a bit off-track, but stuff like this really inspires me and therein hides the reason for my sudden need not just for more Facebook friends, but those of a specific flavour.
As a bit of a left-leaning liberal type person, I’d always felt the need to be accepting and tolerant of everyone in my own personal space because not to do so might brand me as a hypocrite. What I hadn’t thought about to any great degree before was that my personal distaste for some people had nothing to do with gender, orientation, skin colour, or any number of things none of us has any real choice in. I don’t like assholes, and I suddenly didn’t want them in my blanket fort anymore because my personal sense of peace became more important than their friendship or right to personal expression. I wanted to surround myself with people who would inspire me, help me nurture myself, make me think deep thoughts again, and help me push myself forward. Poets, writers, artists of all sorts do that for me. For you, it might be Ted Nugent, and yeah, okay, go with that, but it’s not coming into my house.
It’s beyond the scope of this already eccentric essay to examine whether Ted’s music is art (I think it is, I just don’t like the man who makes it). The mouldy old chestnut, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like,” actually has weight, and so does the sentiment, oft-paraphrased in one meme or another, it’s better to be alone than in bad company. The really cool thing about the new global community we live in, though, is that you don’t have to be alone or in bad company.
I have no idea what the point of this whole post is, the ones that come to me in the night never really explain themselves well, but that sounds pretty good and I’m going with that.