Are you liberal, conservative, radical, stoic, centrist, anarchist, green? You can fill in the blanks I’ve missed. Maybe you want to bring back the Wobblies or worship the sun. What you label yourself is much less important than what you believe. Can you tell me why you believe, what you believe and why it matters? This is not to say how you practice your beliefs, or its tenets that sound better than the practice of them often turns out to be. Can you tell me how it actually enhances the lives of all others and not just the ones who look and think like you do? I mean, how it truly, physically, mentally, emotional and spiritually benefits others. This is a monumental question, so let’s step aside for a moment. Think about it while you continue reading.
What gives our lives meaning? With what do we fill our days? Day-to-day living, such as work, school, home and the inherent responsibilities associated occupy much of our time. Yet without something else, we may feel stifled, trapped. We long for richer lives, encouraged by our cultures to associate that with people we see in ads, on television, on film and on the stars within whichever orbit they rotate, in short, with money. Social media enhances our ability to follow the lives of the powerful, popular, rich and talented both here and abroad. We follow and like corporations, movements, teams, film and sports’ stars, politicians and pundits, and the success touted in our own, chosen group of friends.
Rarely, if ever, do we follow, support, or even regard, teachers, police, firefighters, or medical support personnel. Though we may follow celebrity doctors, we are both unaware of the rest and envy the imagined salaries of this tier of the medical profession. The people above are integral to our continued existence. They educate us, protect us and help us maintain our daily existence. We do not support others doing essential work, such as car mechanics, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, truck drivers and oh so many more. These are the people who construct our shelters, commercial spaces and keep them functional and stocked with necessities.
It’s been said that in order to survive people need food, water and shelter. So perhaps, more importantly, what about farmers, ranchers, dairy workers, crop pickers, sanitation crews and others unnamed? Without them, our structures, our shelters would have stood empty and fallen into ruin long ago, as ragged, starving bands roamed the world. Though often supplanted by large factory farms (more corporations) and other mega food businesses, these people are talented, dedicated, hard-working and capable and deserve our thanks and respect. More, they are essential to our continued existence. The work is straight-forward, practical, functional and utilitarian. As long as they do their jobs, the structure of society will stand.
As long as they do their jobs, the structure of society will stand.
That brings us to our next group. Even lower on the respect and appreciation scale, we find writers, artists, musicians, composers, sculptors, philosophers, scientists and other creatives, unless they’re dead. Without them, it seems to me; we would continue to exist, but I fear it would be a plodding and weary life. The arts, in the most general use of the term have, in my opinion, been with us since we stood upright and possible long before. Despite theories to the contrary, I believe cave painting, body decorations and ornaments were driven by the urge of our ancestors to express themselves. Innovations in shelters, clothing, pottery and weapons’ design and decoration also express this inner drive to create. I posit that these innovations, these improvements arose due to someone’s imagination and desire to create something unique. If not something never done before, something better than any of their peers could produce.
Could this somehow be simply instinctual? Quite probably, but does that mean that it cannot also have arisen from a creative urge? We are competitive by Nature, with a capital “N”. Most species compete for the most viable mate, the best nesting sites and the most plentiful food resources. We, like the other animals, do the same. As we have grown and evolved, that competitive urge has remained. As our brains grew, we could not only continue to express our creativity and competitiveness, what we produced became more complicated and sophisticated. When it comes to our territorial imperatives and combat which results to protect them, we have produced ever more lethal weapons and strategies. However, our art and philosophy have grown apace, and we can now analyze and explicate what this means and why it matters.
Pursuit of the arts is not for everyone, just as farming, animal husbandry, construction, mechanical ability or whatever skill you might name are not suited for everyone. This is the natural order of this world, if not the universe. Yet when times get hard and money’s in short supply, often the first urge is to eliminate art, music, theater, philosophy and the like. This is a mistake. Art, creative expression, and its companions are not the bricks, boards, or stones of civilization, they are the nails, glue and mortar which hold our agreed upon reality together and reside in the very marrow of our bones. More, they are the face, taste and conscience which contribute to our growth and to the depth, beauty and meaning of our civilization. More, our artists, creative people in any field, are the dreamers, the innovators who move us forward. They dream the dreams of which we are made.
They dream the dreams of which we are made.
If our only reason to exist is to be born, grow, couple, procreate and die ad infinitum, we are still only the animals many claim vehemently we are not. It means whatever cognition and reasoning we have gained as our brains have grown and we have spread across the entire globe are worthless. While we are only concerned with those in close proximity to us, we have little reason to contemplate or be concerned that we our destroying our world and ourselves. Still more troubling, we continually show concern only for our group, tribe, community, nation, religion and those who share our views. This tribal mentality is detrimental to our continued existence. We live constantly ready to battle.
Signs of this prevalent reality are evident almost anywhere you look. If the names we assign to what is in the world around us convey the truth (the universal label we all accept) this alone should give us pause. Speaking only of the country where I was born, the USA, we have the war on poverty, the war on drugs, radicals of the left and of the right, assault weapons, hate mongers, the military-industrial complex, and mutually assured destruction to name but a few. For those already participating in this assured destruction and those who would like to join, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, others, the desire to attain and maintain these lethal arsenals is motivated by fear. This same applies, I believe, to those in the United States who oppose more restrictive, or in some cases, any gun laws. Each and all appear driven by the fear that something is being taken away from them, even if they’ve never had it or would rationally want to use it. This epitomizes the tribe mentality that no one can have anything we don’t have. Their views are narrow, their paranoia is enormous and their GOD is on their side.
So now I’ve returned to where we started, belief. The question which brought me here is addressed to those who wonder how their God can allow natural and man-made disasters, religious wars, murder, and mayhem to occur. Growing up, I learned that god is omniscient, omnipotent and omni-present. GOD, and here your perception of god becomes important, knows everything, controls everything and is everywhere, including the depths of space, galaxies, suns, planets, down to atoms and sub-microscopic particles. This god is everywhere, every-when, unconstrained by time, space or distance. Some rationalize how this or any deity allows super-storms, tsunamis, mass destruction, the death of babies and the murder of children as the work of Satan. Or they site our poor understanding of the divine vision. They have no answers, so they say have faith and, all too often, they say, have our faith.
What do you believe?
Yet god as described above does not allow anything to happen. In every tragedy, travesty, murder, genocide or whatever you can name, god participated. Harking back to Newtown, which almost seems the distant past, god not only allowed the killing of innocent children and others, but witnessed, killed, was killed, and is all the victims direct and indirect. Through us, as us, god built the church, manufactured the assault weapon, neglected a child and the list goes on and on. If you don’t give credence to my position, that’s all right. Believe what you want to believe as long as you don’t believe yours is the only truth. Remember, just as with every negative happening in the world, in anybody’s world, god is in every joyful moment, every triumph, every creation, all truth and beauty.
So, in this roundabout way I’m here to encourage art and creativity. Nothing proves that life must be balanced between good and bad, though many natural systems do suggest a dichotomy of opposites, night and day, on and off. Still, if we support truth, beauty and harmony, it seems we must oppose falsehood, ugliness and chaos. How can that be a bad thing? I believe we must give more support to the people who actually make our lives possible and let the powerful, popular rich fend for themselves for a while. I believe we must create, inspire others to create and support their efforts to the fullest extent. I believe in all of the beautiful dreamers who have and continue to dream of a better world for all of us, no matter what. What do you believe?