So my kickball teammate the Constant Gardner
is hosting the final round of an Everything Idol contest. Random things, concepts, and creations have gone against each other and put to a vote over the past few months to determine the Greatest Thing Ever. The two finalists are Love and Art.
Not all of the "things" in the Everything Idol contest were abstract concepts. Off the top of my head, some of the others vying for Greatest Thing Ever were Neutral Milk Hotel's album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
, Christmas, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, and the pulley. It was quite a mish-mash.
But anyways, it's down to Love v. Art. I don't see how anyone can argue against both of them deserving to be here, but you can
argue about which deserves to win.LOVE
To a lot of people it's all that matters in life. It's an emotion associated with one's most intense and important relationships. Friends, family, and significant others. In the spirit of what I believe Gardner means by "Love," I see it manifesting itself in three ways: phile, eros,
; or, friendship, romance, and selflessness. The first two are obvious. The third has a very religious -- specifically Christian -- connotation, as in giving yourself fully to God, but I think this kind of love can also be used to categorize love or devotion to a greater cause, or even Humanity itself. Like Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama. Or, even in some horrible twist of the concept, that guy at the bar in the Lakers shirt and the face painted purple and yellow. In all three cases, Love makes you feel better because you find meaning and comfort from without. You are not alone within yourself. Love can turn a bad day into a good day, and make a horrible day bearable. Like J, P, G & R said, "all you need is love."
But there's a dark side. When love goes away, the loneliness and sadness can be overwhelming. The horrible feelings are so horrendously horrible; its sudden absence a constant reminder of what was, and what was good
. Similarly, the feelings you have for someone/-thing out of Love can act as an Achilles heel: when bad things happen to those we love, you feel it 10x stronger, it seems. Seeing someone you love in pain is so much worse than when you feel pain. A much lesser poet than the ones previously mentioned has said: "love is suicide." And make no mistake, before you reap the benefits of Love, you'll receive its boot in the face. Over and over and over again.
Also, not everyone finds love in this world. And, even worse, "Love" can be perverted and misunderstood and twisted and make people do all kinds of fucked up shit. Love is powerful going in both directions.ART
I believe Music was it's own thing in the Everything Idol contest, so here I take Art to imply painting, sculpture, drawing... the visual arts. Or, rather, more "traditional" visual arts since I'm also pretty sure movies had their own category. Art can inspire a range of feelings, and can accompany you on your road to happiness or comfort you in your despair. Art has a dual nature in that it reflects the world onto the viewer at the same time the viewer puts into Art his/her own understanding of things. Or, Art can allow you to escape the world as you fall into the canvas or get lost in the nooks and crannies of a sculpture. A Picasso painting can awe you; a Dali painting can confuse you; a Lichtenstein painting can make you laugh; a Basquiat painting can make you think. Art is a hobby, a business, or a calling. Great art is astounding. Think of Pablo Picasso's Guernica
or Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night
. Two obvious examples, but they both really are great, and they both do a lot for the viewer. Plus, art can pop up anywhere. The cover of a magazine, the tile mosaic in a NY subway station, hanging on a wall, or drawn with chalk on the sidewalk. These surprises can alter your mood and change the momentum of your day.
Plus there's everything Art does for the artist. It allows you to express your feelings, frustrations, politics and ideology, opinions on specific topics, or just recreate a really pretty flower. It can calm you. It can define your life and leave your mark on the world long after you're gone. For most artists, it's not even something they choose to do: it is
them. All of this from a few strokes of a brush or the manipulation of some stone.
On the other hand, there's a lot of bad art. Offensively bad. Art that doesn't do anything but waste people's time and hurt people's eyes. Ultimately pointless creations wasting time, energy, and resources. I suppose everything is relative and so we need the bad art to provide a definition of "good art" but still, one downfall of Art is that it's not guaranteed to be good. Also, a pessimist could argue that there is an inherent impotency with Art. Sure, Guernica
is awe-inspiring and hauntingly beautiful and epic in proportion, but all those people in Spain are still dead. The truth is Franco allowed Hitler to bomb the city, and the people are gone. Poof! As far as remembrances go, Picasso's painting is a lovely one, but I think those people and their families would rather have them back alive. (Of course, the obvious retort to this is well, by keeping the memory alive the Art "will not let us forget," to steal the rallying cry of 9/11. And in fact, I'm sure there is/will be a lot of really truly beautiful stuff to commemorate that infamous day. But again, Art is kind of powerless to do anything but make us "remember" and in this fucked up world, do we really expect People to change? I mean, people-with-a-lowecase-p as in specific people will certainly change and be profoundly altered, but People-with-a-capital-P as in mankind will always consist of asshats and douchebags.) What can Art really do?MY VOTE
So which way will I vote? What do I think deserves the title of Greatest Thing Ever? Well, another thing to consider is that Love, as an emotion, is more basic and fundamental than Art. Art evokes feelings, but Love is
a feeling. In fact, Love is a term and concept that can be associated with Art -- a painting can remind the viewer of a loved one and conjure up all kinds of memories and feelings associated with this loved one. And this is a very powerful thing, but isn't it really the resulting emotion
being evoked, i.e. the Love in this particular case, that makes the experience of looking at that specific piece of Art so worthwhile? This seems like a chicken and egg argument, but it's not. In the Art-Love Wars, if there is no Love, then a painting *about* Love would never evoke such a feeling. The Art is there, but the feeling is not. However, if there is Love, then that Love is always there.
But another thing to consider would be: if Love has been lost, then this Art-about Love painting would conjure up all kinds of bad sentiments and feelings. Whose fault is that? The Art's? Or Love's? If Love hadn't done such a good job of messing the viewer up, then the Art wouldn't have stirred up the stinking wretchedness. There would have been no real reaction upon first looking at the painting. Maybe the viewer would have *misread* the Art and gotten a whole different meaning out of it.
And still another thing to consider: returning to the idea that Love is a more fundamental notion than Art, is that even necessarily true? The urge to create Art has clearly been imprinted into Man from the beginning of time. Just look at the cave drawings. The need to express oneself is a pretty basic and fundamental part of what it is to be Human, and the Art that results from the creation process is this primal urge of Expression and Creation brought to its logical conclusion.
And still another thing to consider is: if you take away Art, and you take away Love, which will impact you more? Which would be worse to live without?
All of this has been me trying to logically work my way through the question: which is the Greatest Thing Ever, Love or Art? But you can't logically speak about Love or Art. Love is an emotion. There is no objectivity with it, it's all subjective. That's sort of inherently built into the idea. Logically speaking, Romeo and Juliet were idiots. But I get it. And Art? I can understand why certain pieces of art are good, but that doesn't mean I react well to them overall. Since I know music better, try this: I know
that there's some really great jazz out there. Intellectually, I get that some of it is almost ridiculously good, so good that it's almost incomprehendable that a human being could create it. But I just don't care about jazz. I don't really appreciate it. Another example of why trying to be logical about this Art v. Love debate is foolish is exhibited by the existence "guilty pleasures." I am well aware of the fact that Billy Joel is kind of cheesy. But, I also can't help but love "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" even though it's a little over-the-top and too much. I'm embarrassed by how much I love that song. But that's the way it is. Logic has nothing to do with it.
So despite the fact that I had an agenda, and tried to logically argue for Art over Love, I can't do it. I just really love my friends and family too much to trivialize the connection I have with them by relegating it to anything but the Greatest Thing Ever.
EDIT: Today Gardner put up one branch of an argument for Art, claiming that Art helps us understand Love. He used songs to explain this line of reasoning. I thought that was interesting since in my
arguments I posited that the Love would have to be there to understand the Art. Then I claimed Art v. Love seemed like a chicken and egg type thing, but actually wasn't. In light of Gardnet's post, now I wonder if it really is. This is tricky!