(note: this is a work in progress, I'm still thinking about it)
“The anthropologists got it wrong when they named our species Homo sapiens ('wise man'). In any case it's an arrogant and bigheaded thing to say, wisdom being one of our least evident features. In reality, we are Pan narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee.”
― Terry Pratchett, "The Globe"
I was wondering why we do things. Like, sure, we need food and shelter to survive, and probably a few other basic necessities. And if those aren't met, at least to some degree, few other things are important.
But that's not what we strive for most of the time, is it? What we strive for isn't just food and shelter, it isn't just survival, it isn't just belonging-to-a-group-because-that-increases-chances-of-survival.
Why do people read books? Why do we listen to music? Why do people go to galleries and look at paintings? Why do we sit around camp fires and tell stories? Why do people risk their lives to go to the theater and the opera and meet people and sing and dance?
I want to go a step further than pan narrans, because I believe stories aren't the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal are feelings. Emotions.
We are the feeling ape, simia sensibilis.
We need emotions so much that we'll spend considerable resources to experience them. We crave emotions so much that we'll destroy our lives to get them, to feel them. We'll hurt other people, and ourselves, to safeguard "the right emotions", and we'll expend all our energy to turn "bad feelings" into "good feelings", even to the detriment of all the world.
Stories are just one way that we make others feel things, even though a very strong and durable way. We tell stories so others can experience feelings "second-hand". We invent stories so we can show other people emotions that they wouldn't think of themselves. We read books because someone told us that they liked to feel the emotions wrapped into the words.
But there are so many other ways to achieve feeling transfer: painting, music, dance, food, rituals, social groups, personal relationships. Do you think it's a coincidence that all human cultures have these? And cherish them? And develop them and refine them, and defend them against outsiders and change. It is because we crave feelings.
Our rational thinking abilities, that we are so proud of, are just a mechanism to get at more feelings, and more variation in feelings.
And thus, Art.
Art is making other people feel feelings. Stories are Art, paintings are Art, music is Art, dance is Art, food is Art. Anything that one does to make other people feel something is Art. And it doesn't matter how big or small, or for how many or few people the Art is for.
If you make a movie and it reaches a billion people: Art.
If you prepare a sandwich for your friend: Art.
If you write the best symphony in the world and are on all the news: Art.
If you dance with someone: Art.
If you sing a tune to yourself, just for yourself: Art.
If you create the worlds best-selling computer game: Art.
If you create a computer game but don't show anyone: Art.
Every one of us is an Artist. It is what we are.
Do not let anyone tell you that it's not Art you are creating. Do not let anyone tell you that your Art is bad, or that someone else is better, or that you shouldn't do Art. As long as anyone is feeling something over the things you do, even if it's just yourself, it is Art as much as anything else.
You do your Art and you be proud of it.
But there is also another side to it. We do not simply crave good emotion, we crave any emotion, and the more variety there is, the better. That also means that we need fear and tension and sadness. How boring would stories be if they were only ever happy.
And also note that Art has nothing to do with money. You can make money without doing Art and you can do Art without making money.
Every one of us is an Artist. It is what we are. You do your Art and you be proud of it.