The Earth, without Art, is just “eh.” This line is better than just a fun play on words, because it’s true. Art brings color, light, and awe to the world. It is transcendent. At least, good art is. It can make you think, wake you up, give you new avenues to explore, and bring you to an encounter with the divine.
There’s a great line in the movie Dead Poets Society that really captures this:
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love...these are what we stay alive for.”
Good art usually encapsulates all four; poetry, beauty, romance, and love, in one way or another.
Life is hard, just at the baseline. Humans are vulnerable beings. Every single one of us battles misfortune, disease, mother nature, and eventually time. We need art, beauty, wonder, romance, and love to make the dullness and drudgery of life worth living through.
That may all sound woefully depressing to you, but I don’t see it that way. Because, really, we cannot change anything about the baseline state of life. We can change our communities, and the world, if we are very ambitious, sure. But we cannot change the facts that disease and mother nature and plain old bad luck exists. As Neil Gaiman says in his famous Make Good Art commencement speech, “Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make. Good. Art.”
We cannot eliminate the struggle or vulnerability or disease or death that comes with life (and even if we could, do we really want to? Don’t the bad times make the good things better? Just as there can be no light without darkness?) We cannot truly stop time from marching ever onward. But what we can do is make our time here worthwhile.
We can make our lives worthwhile. By creating beauty, wonder, love, and transcendent experiences for ourselves and our fellow struggling humans. We can encounter the divine in spite of the hard toil of life, sometimes even because of it. We can make good art. And that can make all the difference.
Art is divine because to make art is to create something; to pull something into existence when before there was nothing. It is to participate in an actual act of creation. And to properly view and engage with a piece of art that anyone has created is to bear witness to an unfathomable act of creation.
“Abracadabra” means “I create as I speak.” And what could be more magical, more divine, more poetic, than speaking and acting so as to bring a piece of art and beauty into being? No wonder it makes up for the “eh.”