As I talk to people about their feelings on faith, politics, and the state of the world currently, I tend to focus on measurables: data, stats, trends, etc. These discussions happen online, in person, over the phone, and via text message. And while I differ from many people’s perspective on things in one way or another, I generally try to give the benefit of the doubt when in conversation.
But as I analyze those conversations, the most frequent difference I notice between between myself and others is that while I often focus on the measurables, others tend to focus on more subjective things: expression, emotion, and artistic response.
This is shocking to me because I’ve spent so much of my life hopelessly in love with music, literature, and other art forms that communicated powerfully with me.
Perhaps the most glaring realization came when I started work on a living document by the same name as this blog: Millennial Manifesto.
I meant it to be a collection of ideals, goals, and accountability measures that would help my generation keep its focus and remain uncompromising in our hopes for the future world. So I had sections with titles like “Social Justice” and “Transparency of Authority” and “Clean Energy Immediately.” As I worked on those items, the document received input from others, such as my friend Brandon Williams.
When Brandon started a whole new section titled “Arts and the Community,” I had some serious soul-searching to do. I realized I had completely ignored all the elements of art and community that are invaluable in terms of living a life worth living. I like to think of myself as someone who is conscious and appreciative of the “unmeasurables” as a matter of lifestyle. After all, I was a person so moved by music that I was thrilled to be a contributor to a 2009 book titled “The Spiritual Significance of Music.” (Or view it here)
So I started reviewing what music has meant to my faith formation over the years. I recalled how literature shaped my paradigm throughout the last 20 years. I cherished how even movies and TV shows had helped me see different perspectives or had introduced me to new thoughts and possibilities.
And I was convicted by my conscious of my oversight.
So here I am, looking at how art plays into our ideals, how they shape and then shatter our perceptions. If social media is becoming an “echo chamber” for many people and mostly serves to reinforce their preconceptions, then art has a power that can break through that. Music, especially for me, can melt a heart frozen by self-righteousness. Pictures and words can liberate a mind captivated by selfish thoughts.
I recall stopping my car on the side of the road as a 16 year old driving at night and sobbing uncontrollably listening to Enya on the radio. I’ve had similar experiences since with Tom Waits and plenty of other artists.
I remember heaving and crying heavily while re-reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on Becoming The Archetype’s remodeled school bus (named Andre the Giant) while we traveled to our next show.
I recently compiled a list of “music to rage to over the next couple years” and it’s been helpful for preparing me emotionally to deal with the coming shift in culture that has already begun in America.
So now I ask you:
Is art powerful in your life?
Has it shaped or changed your paradigm?
How will music, literature, or other forms of artistic expression assist you through the next couple years? Will you rage to rage-worthy music or seek peace in more calm songs? Will you read for information or for comfort? Will you view visual art for escape or for engagement?
Any option is valid, but I’m genuinely curious how you feel about the Role of Art in the Pursuit of Happiness.