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Saturday, 19 January 2013

Rant: the Nature of Criticism And the Value of Art

All right, I’m only going to say this once: art matters. Period.
If it’s shitty, it’s the artist’s way to hone and perfect it. If it’s creepy, it’s the artist’s way to point to real problems they witness. If it’s negative, it’s the artist’s way of venting. And if it’s inspiring, it’s the artist’s way to paying it forward, and contributing to a better world. Yesterday, it happened on the most unlikely of places: facebook. I’m not against facebook, it’s known to be wise occasionally.

One account I ALWAYS follow is Truth Beckons. As you know, I’m a passionate type of person who likes to inspire, be inspired, create, and spread joy whenever I can. But truth is, I very much value real things that are not so fluffy and positive. I don’t really look away from suffering or shittiness; instead I choose to focus my energy on the good stuff. Even so, I like to always keep an eye on both sides because shitty things can actually inspire people to be better, think better, and act better, too.
The dark side of things brings perspective. Art does the same.

So Truth Beckons shared this photo of a man writing on a wall, and the message read: “I write because nobody listens.” Some people accused the guy of complaining. Because there can't possibly be any value in an honest statement like that. But you and I know: it’s not complaining. It’s making a point. 
It’s a deeper message, at least for me, and sad truth is, most people only look at the surface. They don’t care to dig deeper and think at all about what the writer in question had to say. They don’t care to understand what he’s trying to convey because they’re too busy doing to-do lists, making dinner plans, buying cars, and collecting credit cards. It’s where the world is at, and it’s a sad, stupid place to be.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that life, but it puts value only on material things, and then people go on to having mid-life (and whatever-life) crises because they spent their entire lives accumulating stuff while they were supposed to accumulate experiences instead. Life is meant to be richer! I don't mean richer as in having a lot of money, but richer in every way: body, mind, and soul.
And so, this reaction is anything but surprising. People are so frustrated, of course they're going to judge, and criticize, and fail to understand art. This is why even though there are amazing things in the world, all the attention goes to the superficial or negative, or both. But it sucks! Why do we, as a species, need this constant flow of bad news and bad-mouthing?! It’s partly evolutionary, yes, but nowadays it’s mostly a social thing. It’s what society says is “normal”, never mind that all the great minds in the past were never called that shitty word. And what about price-tagging? That’s just fucking with evolution.
I realize I may come across angry in this post, but I’m hoping this anger will speak to someone.
I’m angry because the guy who wrote the “I write because nobody listens” message got mostly negative feedback. People started saying he was complaining and wasting wall space and just being stupid or something. The beautiful thing is: I’m sure that guy doesn’t give a fuck. Artists have to learn – very early in their lives and careers – to not “feel” it and keep doing what they do best, what they have passion for. We all know that constructive criticism is good for us, but the reactions that guy got on facebook were not meant to be contructive. They were just petty and mean. Now that's really stupid, my friends.
And what do those people who criticized have going for them? Probably not much.
I can see an unhappy person criticizing something arbitrary because they’re frustrated about not understanding it. The message is lost on them, and so they lash out on the poor soul who created it in the first place. Fortunately, some of us will dig deeper for the underlying message, and we’ll come out with a good takeaway: perspective, truth, and so on. And hey, the “discussion” of this image alone has brought perspective. It also inspired this blog post, so the message was well-received and paid forward after all.
Humor me now. What do you have going for you except material things? Do you do something that makes you passionate about life? Do you create something that has the potential to inspire people? Do you feel it with your whole body, does it feel you up with desire to live a 100 years? Do you use your voice when you need to and do you feel like you have a lot to say? Do you say it without fear?
If you answered yes to some or most, good for you. If the answer was no, dig deep to find that thing. The thing that defines you but will never confine you. I’m lucky enough to have found more than one thing, even though the main one is writing. Being a writer, I “heard” what this guy had to “say”.
Hopefully, you heard me, too. And don't you dare silence that “voice” of yours when you feel like what you have to say has value and truth to it. (In all likelihood, it does.) If nobody ever spoke their mind or created art, this world would truly be hopeless. But there is hope still. That is all.
Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts and spread the word.