4 min read

Art and Conscience

Art and Conscience

Art reminds us of what is valuable.

Twisted, Art can delude us into feeling that nothing is of value.

Beauty and Order in Nature are calming, and can be inspiring, but Art, being done by another set of human hands, preachs to us. Art awakens our conscience, by showing that there is goodness in this material world. It shows us that no matter how bad things get, if one simply takes the time, things could still be beautiful.

Art operates primarily on the emotional level.  It is appreciation in action, which is the only true form of gratitude. Beautiful or ugly, it fills us with emotional charge. Beauty and Order inspire Love, care, affection, compassion, gentleness and endurance of emotional suffering, in short, it solidifies our emotional connection with our conscience.

In order to ignore conscience, ugliness is required. We must feel emotionally that there is no point to it all, to ease the abandonment of moral limitations. We often see this in war, where the 'other' is depersonalized so that we can destroy other human beings without feeling bad.  Sometimes war is forced upon us, but when this happens, we must encourage ourselves to still see the enemy as human, to recognize the unfortunate tragedy of it all. This was the purpose behind the Geneva Convention, the Laws of War, etc.

Ugliness is measureable, aesthetics is as much a science as an art, evidenced by the fact that historically (before the rise of modern philosophy) great scientists have often been artists. Beauty lies in proportion, in natural laws governing appropriate placement and sympathetic proximity. Light and color have eternal laws that we must come to understand in order to create great works of Art.

Art's function as conscience is what makes it so valuable. Those who live without morality would like to make it easier for themselves in the world, and instinctively recognizing the sobering effect of Great Art, have embarked upon a conscious campaign to destroy our historical artifacts.  This is a great scar of ugliness upon the collective, but we must learn the secret of Art: the transformation of ugliness (or raw materials) into Beauty.

We can only feel better about the loss of a great cathedral, for example, by placing a greater one in its place. The call is global, the work is difficult and immense, but it is the only way to heal the wounds.

We have not won the war when we burn the fields, but once we have helped our opponents to rebuild their society on proper footings. The United States has historically taken this approach, at great initial cost to ourselves, with varying levels of success in the Philippines, Japan, Iraq, etc. It is the duty of the victor to reestablish civilization, just as the artist must carve stones removed from the quarry.

When we abdicate this responsibility, such as we did in Europe following WWI, in Korea, in Afghanistan, we pay a great price in later generations.  The same holds true in Art, if we simply lament the losses without replacing and surpassing them, we begin to feel vanquished culturally. It is easy to destroy, to hate, to vent anger, depression and frustration, but it is not constructive, in fact, it robs us of the energy to make the changes that are in front of us.

We must have attitude (emotional energy) to accomplish our daily tasks, if we tie it up in talk, outrage, endless debate and planning, we will be unable to fulfill our Divinely-granted responsibilities.  Great Art challenges us to do better, to equal or improve upon the actions of others who have dedicated themselves to the enrichment of human society.

Art, whatever form it may take, impresses on us the fact that we are ever in this material world, but not of it, that we are spiritual beings, and therefore Beauty and Order are our birthright. But, being also physical beings, it is incumbent on us to earn that inheritance.

Every human being is an artist, we are either making beautiful art with our lives, vocations and avocations, or we are declining our birthright for temporary comforts, the proverbial bowl of porridge.

Each person must have at their immediate disposal works of art that inspire them beyond the physical realm. The music we listen to, the objects we use, the stories that we read, the homes we live in, the workplaces we toil in and the people we look up to, must in some way pull us heavenwards. Everyone is unique, to some Bach does the job, for others perhaps it is another genre, for example.

We must get away from unconsciously allowing ourselves to be disappointed in life by the world directly around us. Everyone has some measure of creative control over their environment, it often requires more time and effort than money. When we choose to use our time in this way, we are refusing other uses of that time.

We strengthen our conscience by voluntarily relinquishing lesser wants and desires to its demands. It is in the little moments that we decide whether to listen to that still, small voice or to attempt to drown it out. When we have lived a life indifferent to that voice, we cannot hear it as well. We can turn up the volume, so to speak, by appreciating it through direct action.

Over time, as we order our lives to conform to our higher ideals, we will be less able to do anything else. It becomes harder and harder to be selfish, to commit harmful or hurtful deeds, as we place our lives at the disposal of a higher authority. However, the opposite holds true, the more we resist what we know to be true, right and proper, the easier this path is to travel down.

We make choices all day long, let us learn to choose with Wisdom, and in doing so, the world at large will gradually transform into a more pleasing place to live in.