Early on we realized singing would stop my one year olds tears….
Diaper time: Old Mac Donald. Bath Time: Rubber Duckie. I’ve learned to time evening music. Row Row Row Your Boat means pajama time. Sleep time: My husband sings The Beatles’ Good Night Song.
In the April Museletter I wrote about his singing. I wrote about artistry as a soul behavior to savor, rather than a capitalist inspired skill to build. Have you wondered why art is a behavior? I'm certain there are many reasons, but I want to talk about one:
Evolution selected art making as a necessity for the preservation of the human species. Not just any art making. Making art like a child. And yeah, this idea is challenging on its face. We’re used to thinking of "being saved" in terms of the body. Food and water save us from death. Shelter saves us from cold. What could art possibly save us from?
For me, this is an easier idea to wrap my head around when looking in some of the darkest corners of human history. Concentrations camps for example were without basic necessities, dignity, nutrition, healthcare, and commerce… but they were not without art.
Viktor Frankl’s “Mans’ Search for Meaning” and Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” are examples of masterworks that emerged within camps. When I experience art made in some of the harshest environments of all time, I must believe Art is as important as food and water. We need it like air.
Which brings me back to my son. Why does signing stop him from crying? How does it help him? I believe a child is soothed by music for the same reason we all are soothed.
Nervous system regulation. Coming home to the soul.
From the very beginning of our lives, art brings us home to ourselves. I am certain every person reading this feels the truth of this deep in their being. How many of us in trying teenage years turned to a musician to help us through? How many of us in the wake of a relationship separation, turned to a filmmaker (and a pint of ice cream)? How many of us on the precipice of a courageous life change, turned to a daring novelist? How many of us have sat in a theater and wept? Laughed tears of validation at a comedy show? Were locked in their homes during a pandemic and baked bread? Gardened? Painted?
Science heals our outsides, but Art heals our insides.
Do you find this to be true, but also find you have forgotten it? Have you considered how a diseased, capitalist culture has hijacked art as healing? Art is now relegated to entertainment. If I make a mural so restaurant patrons can take selfies for #marketing, I have a profession. If I make a poem that pulls me out of depression, I have a hobby. If I post a poem on social media that gives someone who is ill hope, I am sweet. If I post poem that wins a prize I am skillful.
Or put another way: How many filmmakers understand they are soul doctors? That the lost and weary are sitting in their audiences? That those who watch their movies will feel more full and healed depending on how they do their jobs?
In contradiction, how many filmmakers believe they are entertainers? Relegated to spectacle and shiny. How many focus on how they look, how much they weigh, or the shape of their nose? How many focus on ticket sales, or reviews from critics. Now can I translate these ideas to my own relationship with art?
Adults view Art as an Object that drives commerce.
Children view Art as Medicine that drives healing.
Children know art makes us soul doctors. That’s good news too, because everyone reading this was once a child. It means we don’t need to learn how to do this. We must simply remember.
How does one remember? By doing. Art as Medicine is a muscle. Sitting down to make things for your soul is like crunches for a spiritual core. Can you recall one thing you simply adored as a child because it healed your insides? Does this feel silly? Woo? Frosting? If so, do you wonder when you absorbed that idea? Do you wonder if that thing could heal your insides now too?