"I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves." Ludwig Wittgenstein

Monday, November 23, 2009

Artists, Not Brain Surgeons

Even if he was a stand-up comedian and Lola was an actress, Richard was curious about why both he and Lola had chosen to become "artists"? So he conducted some library research and, much to his surprise, found that there are a number of theories about why art exists, about art’s “evolutionary function” in the human species.

One theory, he read about, said that the drive to seek out aesthetic experiences evolved in humans because these help us to learn about parts of the world we wouldn’t otherwise learn about—through art we explore new “worlds,” in a safe environment.

Another theory maintains that art is part of a social bonding process---that art makes things special, indeed sacred, and that this shared sense of the sacred helped to bind early humans together.

Still another theory, one about sexual selection and evolutionary “fitness,” says that art is like the peacock’s tail, it is functionally useless, but it signals to potential mates, “Look you should choose me for a mate because the size of my tail indicates that I am a healthy bird, and have a better chance producing healthy offspring--Pick me, pick me!”

When on Friday night, he had dressed in his most expensive suit, and wore his most alluring aftershave, Richard shared these theories with Lola, she immediately knitted her brow into a skeptical pinch, and rebuked him, “Richard, you idiot, the reason we are artists is that we're both too lazy to study to become brain surgeons.”

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