“Birth – school – work – death” by richard f. yates the primitive entertainment workshop

A virus implants itself in a host and replicates. A human is a bit more complicated. I don’t know for sure (having never been small enough to interview a virus) if viruses have complex social communities, viruses who write or draw or create exciting performance art…or if they sing while they reproduce. Humans, with some exceptions, can dance, draw, sing, tell jokes, build wonderful objects (sometimes with functional purposes, sometimes just because they look interesting), and so on. We call these EXTRA bits “ART.” I’m being presumptuous here. Not EVERYONE considers what I’ve included above to be art, but that’s because there is a myth that art creation is exclusively involved with the production of luxury items, like expensive paintings.

No. Art is the HOW to life…and sometimes the WHY. I’ll explain more fully below.

“I think everyone whose response to the financial struggles of an artist is, ‘well, you should have gone into tech or something useful’ should have to go 30 days with no reading, no TV, no movies, no museum visits, no video games, no theatre, and have arts stripped from all their other experiences… no music in restaurants, at sporting events, bars, stores, nothing. No audio books or podcasts or music on their commute. After 30 days deprived of all contributions of artists, I would be interested to know if anyone would still say artists were drains on society and unworthy of life.”

“And I would add the following: bland, colorless clothing; hair that grows out naturally with no cutting or styling; boxes or caves for homes; colorless automobiles with no curves or shaping beyond mechanical necessity; and no creative storytelling, jokes, clever banter, just communication for information without flourish or zeal. Art is everywhere but completely misunderstood by a majority of the population (who seem to regard it as some kind of scam or hussle.) Art is what elevates life beyond just consumption, reproduction, and death. Art makes those things exciting, sublime, and meaningful…bitches…”

The end tag (I was channeling Felicia Day’s character, “Charlie,” from the Supernatural series) was art. (Confrontational, perhaps offensive, certainly unnecessary, but an embellishment that took my statement from straight information and transformed it into something OTHER.) You don’t have to like it, but I thought it was funny. (Not all art is for all audiences.)

This society (the one in which I live—perhaps it’s different in yours) has a difficult time putting a value on anything that doesn’t have a direct commercial element. A PRICE TAG. And it’s true, I do sell my stuff from time to time, but damn, an artist has to eat, too. My point in all of this is that ART, whether visual or literary or auditory, made for enjoyment or education or commercial gain, CAN enhance our life experiences. Walking from point A to point B is sometimes necessary. Skipping from point A to point B is more fun, might give any nearby viewers a chuckle, is likely to offend the sensibilities of some (especially if the skipper is a 46-year-old, short, pudgy, bearded guy wearing a Greek fisherman’s cap,) but it is also a profound slap in the face to the inevitability of death. (I’m back to Camus—sorry.)

I’m not saying that everyone should ignore all the problems in the world or sing really loudly while in a courtroom or tell a dirty joke in a kindergarten class, but I am saying that the ART of LIFE is in enjoying what you can—exploiting every opportunity to embellish and enhance your mood and the enjoyment of life of those around you. Draw a stupid picture. If it looks terrible, laugh at how terrible it is. If you’re singing is bad, at least make your song funny. Do what you can while you can with what you have. Most people don’t realize how easy it is to make art. I scribble drawings on cut-up cereal boxes, I write stories in 50 cent notebooks and poems on receipts from the floor of the car, and I make collages out of magazines that I get for free at the library. I sing stupid songs in the morning while I’m cooking my cheap toaster pastries. I know my time is limited, that the current political situation is extremely unpleasant, that social media seems to devolve into warring tribal disputes at a moment’s notice, that many people in the world are seriously suffering (hungry, oppressed, destitute, ill, lonely, and/or dying,) and I don’t want to suggest that these things aren’t real, that they aren’t true, that they should be ignored, but when situations are at their worst, sometimes it’s only ART that can make LIFE livable, meaningful, and beautiful.

Alan Moore says that artists are contemporary shamen, in touch with the deeper truths of existence and our connection to the sublime. I agree, but I want to take that a step further and suggest that EVERYONE become an artist, that everyone be in touch with creation, with infusing meaning into life, with making their existence sublime. It’s not that hard to start. You just need to dance or sing or grab a pen. It will seem uncomfortable at first, like stepping into a cold pool, but once you’re immersed, and swim around in it for a bit, you’ll love how it feels… Let’s all make sure our lives aren’t just “birth, school, work, death.” (Although, that is a great song by The Godfathers…)