In this blog, I have repeatedly asked the questions “what does this mean?”, “what is the point?”, and “what can we learn from this?” In truth, sometimes nothing means anything, there is no point, and we can’t learn from anything. While these are philosophical points that have their own arguments, I would like to discuss if art really has to matter.
Human history has a tendency to try making the physical self eternal, immortal, permanent. We do it when we build massive structures, write literature, turn ourselves into a brand, govern nations, etc. Perhaps this is a way of confronting our demise, that we may have no true immortality, so we attempt to control life in an attempt to avoid death.
Yet, in the end, we all die. What comes of our monuments, our research, our public policies, our music? Will they be destroyed, disproven, despised, forgotten? Even if they survive, will they be perverted or contorted beyond their intended strength and beauty? What becomes of our art–does our art not matter in the end?
If our art does not matter in the end, then does it have to have meaning when it is created? Can it just “be”, just “exist”? Does it have to say anything, make a point, explore something, or have a subject?
It seems clear that there is a place in the output of past, current, and future art, for both the meaningful and meaningless. And while we as humans flock to having meaning, the meaningless can provide just as much fulfillment.
Just so you have my personal perspective: in truth, I personally take refuge in the fact that I do not believe that anything ultimately matters. I think it is beautiful. I can live my life knowing that my suffering does not matter in the end; it is just a passing thing. Even though my happiness is only present as long as I live, it makes life fulfilling while I have breath in me. And, to return to the subject, my art can have meaning and lack meaning, both in different works and in the same work.
Art can be beautiful and fulfilling no matter how much meaning it has, because our physical existence both has meaning and doesn’t. Art is not just a reflection of life; it is a part of it, and furthermore a projection of what our world can be. Just as life has meaning and does not have meaning at the same time, so our art can–and should–be open to both sides of the coin.
To repeat, this is of course rooted in philosophy, and so I know that there are many people reading this who are much smarter and more well-informed than I. I encourage them to speak up after they read this. I would like to know their perspective on this topic, and their arguments for and against meaning in art being necessary.
In case you were wondering from where this topic came from, I have been reading about Buddhist teachings, and philosophy of some of my favorite television shows on Wisecrack Edition. Check out Wisecrack’s more “academic” (but still funny) YouTube videos here. I have been particularly watching their South Park and Rick and Morty videos that deal with economics and meaning, focusing on neoliberalism and nihilism.
Anyways, pop over to the comments to chime in. Like I have said, I do not have the right perspective by virtue of running a blog. I would like to hear what you have to say.