A couple of weeks ago, I asked readers to answer this question, “What Good is Art?” and received some wonderful responses. Now, it’s time to share my answer to the question.
Art, in its various forms, literature, music, film, photography, etc., is immensely valuable to the human soul. I honestly believe that it is what gives life meaning for a lot of people myself included. One might question this, saying, “What about God, or love, or the people you care about? Aren’t those things more important?” But you see, to me, art is a way to feel connected with the spiritual world. Even prayer, one could argue, is a form of it, and to be honest, certain music has made me feel closer to God than anything else ever could. As far as love and relationships, the painter Vincent van Gogh once said, "I tell you, the more I think the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people." I believe that he was right.
Although there are many different ways in which art can be meaningful, I believe that truly valuable art is significant for one of three reasons. It provides an escape, it teaches you something, or it helps allow you to heal.
Escape art is what we experience when we become so absorbed in a book or a film, in the lives of the characters or the story, that for a moment we are able to forget our own. It allows us to experience vicariously places, events, and emotions that we may never have felt otherwise. It helps us to forget, even if just momentarily, our own problems, struggles, and pain. I am a firm believer that escape art is good for the mind, good for the body, and especially good for the soul. It is sometimes almost like medicine to me, I honestly cannot imagine living without it.
Art also provides value when it teaches us something. Sometimes the lesson is obvious, other times we learn through stories or metaphors. Some art forces us to think about things in a completely new way or opens our minds to new perspectives or possibilities. Sometimes art has the ability to convey a message in a way that nothing else can, and has the ability to make all of us better, wiser, and more compassionate.
Last, but not least, art can help us to heal. We can pour our hearts into the creative process and turn suffering and painful experiences into something positive. Art isn't always about the end result; sometimes the value is in the making of it, the intense emotions it allows us to express, and the things we learn about ourselves in the process.