Art is so pointless sometimes. Don’t you think with all the thinking that artists have done over the years that we would have figured out the meaning of life by now?
You know what I think about the meaning of life?
Why would God create us if we are going to die? But not really even that. Why would God create us with the capacity of knowing we’re going to die? Why couldn’t he just have made us live forever? Or at least make us unaware of what death is? That’d save me a lot of trouble. I’d be happy. But you know what? Have you ever seen anything amazing come from an ignorant creature? I don’t think so. Ignorance isn’t bliss, because without knowing what dark is you can’t know what light is. Without down there’s no up. It’s like explaining color to a blind person. Live forever? That’s not the way to go. It’s in the struggle, the fight of knowing that we are going to die, and having the choice to give it our all and fight, and fight, and scrape and crawl and bleed; fight until there is nothing left in us, until we are everything we wanted to be, or become everything we hate, until we see the light and release our last breath saying, “That was all of me. That was everything. That was my magnum opus.” It is that fight that brings out the worst in us, the absolute worst of desperation, greed, malice, jealousy, and wrath. And it is that same fight that we can triumph, love, heal, conquer and live. LIVE. Really live… and that’s what makes it worth it. That’s what makes life worth living. That’s why we are alive. That’s why we were created. But do no mistake the possibility of life with real life. Do not mistake defeat for death, and hope for triumph. It is a fight. Nothing is guaranteed. Many will fail, and many will succeed, but one thing for certain is that all of us will die. You don’t need me to tell you this. It’s not a surprise. You know it’s coming, and so we are left, not even with the choices we make, but just one choice: Will you fight? Will you fight? Will you live?
But why don’t artists just say that? Why does it take them their whole life to figure that out, or maybe even never figure that out?
That IS the art. Art cannot be summarized or broken down or paraphrased without its meaning being summarized, broken down, and paraphrased as well. Art can’t be explained; it has to be experienced. How do you hear music for someone else? You can’t. How do you taste a delicious treat for someone else? You can’t. How are you supposed to live for someone else? You can’t. I could tell you the meaning of life, but it wouldn’t be the meaning of your life. It takes a lifetime of experiences to understand the meaning of life. Not just the meaning of any life; the meaning of your life. Life is the art, and art is life. We cannot live for someone else, but we struggle to, we try to pour our soul into art so that someone might feel a glimpse of the same thing we felt, live a fraction of our lives, and thus keep us alive through art. We don’t need to live. We don’t need to think. We don’t need to do anything; so I ask you this: why do we? …Your life is art, and you are the meaning of life.
What’s on your mind?
Every living creature dies alone. That sort of thing.
That’s not always true. I’ve heard sometimes big groups of people, like in cults, come together and have mass suicides, like a big suicide party–oh and don’t forget about natural disasters. Lots of people die together in those.
Thanks. I feel way better now.
Well don’t drag your shit onto me. I’m feeling pretty good right now and I don’t want to deal with your existential crisis. I’ll deal with it when I get depressed on my own accord.
You could have just said that first. You don’t have to be such a jerk about it.
I was starting to feel bad, so I had to knock you down a few pegs, which made me feel better I gotta say.
Haven’t you heard of sharing the load to make it lighter?
Haven’t you heard about turds in punch bowls? I don’t want your shit in my mouth.
But we never talk about this kind of stuff. No one does.
And for a reason. People want to feel good. Yeah, we all know we’re all going to die, but we’d rather just distract ourselves from it than spend time thinking about it and dealing with it. Why do you think people are always on their phones doing dumb shit when they could have a quiet moment to reflect? Why do you think we distract ourselves from thought in general?
Yeah. I guess we’ve kind of gotten soft. No one wants to do the hard mental work to find true satisfaction; they just want to play fucking candy crush and feel happy for beating the next level or watch some fucking cats doing cute cat things.
Well yeah, that’s just the way it is, so deal with it.
Well you’re sucking at it. Try harder.
But if I just distract myself it won’t actually change anything.
…I’ll give you some advice that my great grandpa gave me before he died, as long as you promise to shut up.
When you feel like you are going to die — don’t die; and you will survive.
He said that?
Well, I’m translating, but that’s the gist.
Well it’s what he said. Now shut the fuck up and eat some ice cream.
There’s no way he said that.
He was on the forefront of wisdom, what do you want me to say?
How about what he actually said?
But that is what he said.
I object! You expect me to believe this ill-conceived hearsay?
Why not? Everything is hearsay anyways. You wouldn’t even know how old you are if someone didn’t tell you. Everything can be true or false; it just matters if you believe it. You see, there’s a certain point in life when you realize that you’re not the judge. You don’t decide what happens, so you try to be the lawyer for a while, arguing about why it happens and all the time-consuming, convoluted questions that go along with that. But then you realize that you’re a crappy lawyer and are only confusing yourself, so you take another step back. Your real job is to be the jury, and decide what you want to believe. Because believing is the only choice we have, and the only decision worth giving a damn about. So don’t tell me you’re going to die, and don’t ask me why it will happen; just tell me what you’re going to do about it.
Post a 6 second video on youtube and nobody cares. “Why is it so short? They could have done so much more.” Post a 6 second video on Vine: “Wow. Look what they did with only 6 seconds!”
It’s funny how something like Vine can take off so rapidly. Youtube and video sharing has been around for quite some time. Have our attention spans gotten shorter, or are we just more efficient about filling our down time with entertaining snippets and having the ability to share them with anyone around the world with the touch of a screen?
…or is there an artist in everyone?
I’ve come to notice, through personal experience, as well as impersonal experience, that if you place a creative person in a big open room and tell them “you can do whatever you want as long as you reach the wall,” they won’t know what to do. They’ll start with an idea and walk one direction, like that band, and then maybe get another idea of equal merit and head off in another direction because “it might be worth exploring.” that phrase is the sappy goop that bogs you down.
From an artistic/creative point of view, literally everything is worth exploring, which gives you no better reason to go one way over the other. But the artist doesn’t know that, so they run around in circles going from one place to the next, running toward the wall, but never reaching it because they obtain this strange sense of empathy with the wall, that by touching one part of the wall they are also not touching every other point on the wall, and thus the artist is not living up to their potential.
The metaphor isn’t perfect, but it’s like an ant wandering around in search of food. It doesn’t know where it is, so it could be anywhere, so the ant goes anywhere. It cannot go everywhere — that is impossible — but the point is not to go everywhere. The point is to go somewhere. This is where Vine comes back into the equation.
What every artist needs, and may not be willing to admit, are restrictions. Restrictions are what force you to move with undoubting purpose. Restrictions are what force you to think creatively. The most common restriction we have are deadlines, and then of course you can go from there. Some people complain about them “…Ugh, and the whole thing has to fit on a 6×6 inch space! Can you believe that?” Yes. Yes, I certainly can. I enjoy these little restrictions because they provide a challenge, but even better yet, they provide a direction and get your mind to tick a way it wasn’t ticking before. Whether you like it or not, that’s called being creative. So as is the case with this whole sicks second video Vine thing, people might not know how to express their thoughts in video form about something ‘trivial’ that may be very funny or insightful, but doesn’t warrant ‘a whole video just for that.’ But then a 6 second restriction comes along, and here you are thinking about how can you condense your rambling, yet insightful, thoughts on breakfast cereal into a succinct and witty snippet. And best of all is when people normally wouldn’t do something creative, now feel as though they have an outlet for it that didn’t exist before, so they start making videos. It’s not that videos didn’t exist, but rather that that way of thinking about videos hadn’t existed to them yet.
“Get from A to B.”
“Okay, I’ll just walk.”
“Between A and B is all water.”
“I’ll take a bote.”
“You need to get there in 3 seconds.”
“I’ll take a jet powered hydrofoil.”
“Now that’s something I want to see.”
I don’t really know where I’m going with this, as I don’t know why I started writing it, but for some reason I want to end on the image of the wandering ant, and then you put a piece of food in that room and the ant heads straight for it. It’s a closed room with walls, solid construction, and locked doors, so you have no idea how a thousand other ants came out of nowhere and started helping this ant carry the food. It’s not that you gave the solitary wandering ant some food, you gave it a goal. Before, the ant traveled an aimless path leading nowhere, but now you can clearly see a stream of ants winding across the room, like a vine, showing you where it’s come from, where it’s been, and where’s it’s going next.
I suppose as your writing teacher I’m supposed to give you an assignment. So for that assignment I would like you to write something.
Is that it?
No, something. Something in particular.
What does it need to be about?
Like I said, something.
Well, if there’s basically no rules, can I just sneeze on a piece of paper and turn it in?
This isn’t art class–there are rules here. I try to keep it simple, but you people keep trying to be creative and keep messing it up, so I don’t add any more rules. I’ve had many students try to write about anything and it never works out.
Okay, so how long does it need to be?
Write until you think I’m convinced, then stop.
We sat down and she asked what I wanted to talk about. I was confused and responded with nothing, everything, anything. Sometimes it’s nice just to sit together and listen . The things you can hear when nothing is spoken may give clarity to thoughts otherwise unawoken.