We live in a jungle of physical experience, motivated by a world of myth portrayed and personified in virtual monuments. The real, physical jungle that we awaken to each morning is in counterpoint to possibilities promulgated in media and often seems discordant.
The physical global world is at the ends of our fingers, filling our lungs, carressing, pressing, demanding attention; we respond to it without thinking from birth, when we learn to distinguish between things we see and hear and feel and our thoughts become an inner narrative of hope, question and despair, tenuous joy and prayer.
In a process of genetic and linguistic mutation we pass concerns about being in this world to our progeny. Our children begin their lives with the anxieties in which we depart. The children of survivors of a holocaust are sensitized to the suggestion of mob brutality. In this way, a concern that haunts our present generation has grown over the last hundred years, in parallel with growing effects of activities of an accumulating global human population. We now are concerned about the survival of all life on the planet, not from the acts of gods or happenstance, but from our own neglect and we are all inwardly anxious for some solution, some way of being, some action consistent with our moral and ethical commitments.
The real threat of death isn’t conceptual, it’s a personal experience and since the threat of a catastrophic deterioration of the ecosystem that supports all life on the planet is conceptual, it’s a subordinate concern, however, human beings are defined by our subordination of our own survival to survival of those whom we love. This thing called love isn’t just a quaint feature. Feelings of love are so coincident with feeling of aliveness, they are equatable.
Art is distinguished by evocation of this thing called, love. From love, we have the value called, beautiful. We say we love the beautiful. Art is the domain of the beautiful. Without art, there is no human being.
Art is more than manipulation for a goal of commerce.
In our earliest childhood experiences we make decisions that are the policies and strategies we will employ to survive. Since we are inherently social beings, these are primarily strategies to bond, to trust and to reliably discern the intent of others. We learn to equate our potential for success with the approval of peers. We are natural crowdfunders. Media presents virtual situations, using forms of art that evokes the same feelings we associate with real people and in this way, populates our world with sets of virtual peers with whom we identify and from whom we desire acceptance and approval and we strive to be like our virtual friends, to have what they have, to live as they are living… and, lo, the result is the world as we know it:
Pure and simple, these values entail a subordination of all other priorities to human needs that has already cost us the loss of thousands of other species that composed an ecological balance. Their disappearance along with the chemical alterations of the atmosphere on which carbon lifeforms on this planet depend, i.e., the air we breathe, has resulted in enormous “natural” catastrophes, costing the lives of millions and threatening now to extinguish biological forms of life that is like ours on this planet. We’re aware of this and our virtual peers reflect a kind of hopeful resignation to it and anyway, our first priority requires that we make a living and after this, to pay taxes and then go quietly to our graves.
We die and the planet dies. Such is life? No. Such is the lie we have come to accept as part of the myth of contemporary culture and that myth is mostly perpetuated in the lives of our virtual peers, who are, after all, the reasonable, lovable models we aspire to become, to have what they have, drive what they drive, love as they love…
Art is the domain of myth creation and destruction.
As extraordinary as the great pyramids and temples of the ancient East seem to us now, their grand purpose was simply to give concrete reality to myths that justified systems in which the lives of people served an economic system. However, the activities of the Pharaohs and earlier Moghul emperors didn’t threaten to destroy the planetary ecological system. The myths of the Hapsburgs, Tudors and the 3rd Reich destroyed millions of lives, human and otherwise but today, the myth of our economic system has placed us at a crossroads in the birth, life and death of our planet’s ecosystem such that we must now globally decide who we are as human beings in the matter of the survival of our entire world. We must ask, to what future are we committed with respect to human being and secondarily to this consideration, what are we going to do about it?
Thus, it is a privilege for an artist to be alive today, for it is an opportunity for heroism beyond all previous imagination, to act.
It is an opportunity to question and impose new ideas upon a global economic system at the crucifix of origin and destruction. We are called upon to destroy a myth and simultaneously, create a myth.
Early in the 20th century, commercial media began to inspire a commitment in our culture to the myth of an alternative home for human life, on another planet, elsewhere in the universe. Although this might theoretically be an answer to population growth, it’s an empty promise since we have no plans, not to mention, a funded commitment to realize such a dream, nor is this likely. However, migration to the stars is irrelevant to our individual commitments survive and only asks us to ignore the needs of life on our planet: our lives now in return for an empty promise of a possible life in the indeterminate future after we are dead and gone. This future possibility of colonizing stars is a pleasant goal to imagine but irrelevant to our needs in every aspect of our lives including for most people, our physical survival. We dream of exodus is obscene to consider, while the atmosphere deteriorates and the sea levels rises. This dream of extra-terrestrial conquest is nothing more than a myth analogous to pyramid building but to give it up now requires that we evaluate who we are in the matter of our lives, individually and as a civilization. It’s critically important to confront this myth.