Sunday, October 26, 2014

On Art

In his timeless classic Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote: 'I have no doubt that some of you who read this book are unable to pay for all the dinners which you have actually eaten, or for the coats and shoes which are fast wearing or are already worn out, and have come to this page to spend borrowed or stolen time, robbing your creditors of an hour.'

I once heard a great thinker arguing that a painting costs more than a loaf of bread; despite that we can’t survive on painting, yet we are willing to pay. What possess us to do such thing?

Artists endure, thus they create Art. Art inspires doing, yet artists don’t. The great Thomas Pine wrote his influential pamphlet Common Sense only to inspire George Washington to lead a revolt against the British. Leo Tolstoy’s essay Kingdom of God is Within You inspired in Gandhi the sense liberation and simplistic life style. It was Emerson who intellectually lectured on antislavery, but Abraham Lincoln led the armies after attending his lectures. It was Thoreau who wrote Civil Disobedience, but Martin Luther King, Jr. championed the Civil Rights movements. 
Did Machiavelli or Milton or Sartre lead revolutions and revolts? No, they led intellectual revolutions and revolts; it was the job of those influenced to execute anarchy and wars. 
Perhaps we buy the painting because it inspires us.

Are Artists passive? Is Art, as Mr. Wile once described it, useless? He once said that 'A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse.’ I ask here: are those accidentals and misuses are horrible outcomes? Is wrong of me to pair philosophers and their written heritage with Art? Then why would Mr. Wilde incept his masterpiece of a novel with a preface on Art?
I possess little knowledge to answer that.