Philosophy

Art and the Human Spirit

Human nature contains within it the seed of the spirit of art. Everyone aspires to be an artist, in some form or another. Whether an artist of one’s trade, work; the artist that is the gardener; the artist as writer; the artist as musician; the artist as painter; the artist as entertainer. If we quench the fire of art, the spirit of the artist, we will have destroyed the very thing that makes us human.

The need for art is apparent in the earliest iterations of human civilization—if we can charitably use that term even for Cave society. Cave drawings and artwork from our primitive ancestors show the artistic spirit even then. This is, of course, refined and developed through the emergence of sedentary agrarian societies: the birth of literature and song.

Song and literature go hand-in-hand, even if the origins of songs predate literature. Literature puts to concrete reality what songs were about and passed on through oral history. The need to preserve that oral history through the creation of literature was a great artistic achievement of the human race.

Art, in its simplest form, is the construction and creation of something. From that perspective, human progress and evolution is in of itself artistic. The construction and creation of families, tribes, societies, civilizations—the complex outgrowth from simple hunter-gatherer individuals to the globalized network of humanity we have today—is the artistic spirit in its fullest maturation.

Even our own lives, as I’ve alluded, is filled with the artistic desire and dream. We wish to create versions of ourselves. We wish to create our own homes and families. We wish to create a space for play and comfort, for happiness and serenity amid the world we live.

Perhaps this is why humans have always been drawn to art? And the notion of God as Artist (more than just mere Creator) also probably explains the transcendent element, of quality, to art. The origin of the cosmos is in artistic creation. We are products of the artwork of a living Cosmos. In coming back into communion with that Cosmos of Artistry we experience that primordial divine spark. Our lives are enriched by art. It is essential that we live artistic lives to live human lives.  

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Hesiod, Paul Krause in real life, is the editor of VoegelinView and a writer on art, culture, literature, politics, and religion for numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love and the Politics of Plato, and a contributor to the College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory. He holds master’s degrees in philosophy and theology (biblical & religious studies) from the University of Buckingham and Yale, and a bachelor’s degree in economics, history, and philosophy from Baldwin Wallace University.

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