Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Who is this Art guy anyway?

I believe in truth.

[Oh, god. Here we go again with the philosophizing.]
{Now, now, give him a chance.}

Unfortunately truth comes in two flavours: relative and concrete.

[Good, it's a binary thing, shouldn't take too long.]

Concrete truth is the province of science. The problem is that most people don't understand how science is supposed to work. Science is all about observing and explaining the natural world. The goal is to build up a testable body of knowledge that we can provisionally accept as fact. All theories in science are open to refutation, if they can't be falsified it isn't part of science. The reality we're observing doesn't change, but our understanding of it does.

[Really? What the hell is he on about, isn't this a music blog?]
{Patience my dear, patience. I'm sure this is relevant, er, somehow.}

Relative truth is the a trickier matter. It includes all the cultural assumptions, rules and customs we live by. Things that are subject to constant change.


For example, killing people isn't permitted in our society. Except in certain situations, like for example, during wartime. The situations in which lethal force is acceptable have changed through the years. Dueling is certainly not allowable today, but as little as 150 years ago it was a fact of life. It was a cultural truth that you could take up arms and kill those who had offended you.

[Killin' people, now we're getting somewhere. Where did I put that scimitar...?]

{That's not nice....and put that letter opener down before you hurt yourself!}

So if concrete truth is the province of science, what is the system for understanding relative truth?

[Rhetorical right? Please tell me he's being rhetorical.]

Religion is one answer. A flawed answer in my opinion. The problem with religion is that it tries to make relative truth into absolute truth. It takes the shifting tides of human interactions and tries to nail them down. With about as much success as trying to nail down a real tidal flow would have.

[Now he's done it. Flames ahoy!]

{Just because he's getting all nautical doesn't mean you have to.}

This isn't to say that most religions don't have something good to offer. Just that their, "We're right and everyone else is wrong.", approach causes more problems than it solves. Also, at it's worse religion stagnates a culture by not allowing it to grow and evolve.

[Evolve! Evolve? Is he
trying to piss people off?]
{I think he's trying to sort something out, you know thinking out loud. Stop interrupting}

For the record, I also think it's a really bad idea when people try and make concrete truths relative. The "new age" folk are often guilty of this. I don't care how much peyote you've ingested, how aligned your chakras are or how much you believe that all reality is a creation of your own mind: when you jump off of something you're going to accelerate at 9.8 meters per second squared. The result of which is very messy if you do it from any real height.

[Ha! He's picking on everyone. A glutton for punishment.]

{If you can't keep quiet I'm going to take away the remote, I mean it!}

So what is the answer? In short: art.


{Shut it!}

Art is the expression of relative truths. It is our way to glimpse into the lives, emotions and realities of other people in a form that can connect at deeper level than daily interactions allow. It is our way of understanding who we are as a group and what matters to people outside of our group.

It's for this reason that you know you're deep in the shit when outside bodies start trying to control artists. It means that that group, be it governmental, religious or what have you, is trying to define the truth for everyone. This never works for long of course. People are just too diverse to be pinned down this way. My evidence of this: if it was possible make the relative truths of our lives concrete then someone would have done it by now. We'd all be believe the same things, live the same way, be in essence the same person. The very thought of such a grey, unvaried world makes my viscera shrink away from my skin.

Art is important. Important in a way that we often fail to realize when we're trying to find something to go on the wall above the couch or are scrolling through the ipod playlists.

[Looks like he's done, can I talk now?]
{I guess.}

[You know why he's on about this?]

{What do you mean, isn't he just giving an opinion? No wait, let me guess: He's trying to piss people off enough to generate some comments.}

[Oh, he's doing that alright, but I think he's got another motive.]

{And that would be....?}

[He's trying to convince himself that the time he's spent learning and playing music has some value over and above filling in time till he dies.]

{Huh, when did you become a brainiac?}

[Shut up.]

{You shut up!}




{Yes dear?}

[I love you.]

{Come here you...}


Fred said...

This is one of the best posts I've read in a while. Nice.

Coelecanth said...

Thanks man. I was afraid I was being a little too cutesy.

The post was inspired by "Why People Believe Weird Things" by Michael Shermer ISBN: 0-965-59487-4