Friday, February 8, 2013

Life, the Universe, and Everything

I'm going to be 42 in a week.  I'm wondering if this means I should have solved the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything by now.  (in case I've lost you, it's a Douglas Adams reference).

If so, I'm pretty sure art has something to do with it.  I'm currently reading a book called Dominion by Niles Eldredge, which is a look at humans and how they interact with the world from the perspective of an evolutionary biologist.  I have just gotten to the part where we became Homo sapiens.

While our species anatomically appears to be about 150,000 years old, there is a good deal of debate about when we became the conscious beings we are, acquired speech, etc.  But beginning around 30,000 years ago, not too long after our species left Africa, there is a sudden explosion of artifacts such as bone carved for religious purposes, jewelry, ornamentation, and cave paintings, along with "an exploding array of consciously constructed artifacts designed to deal with an increasingly diverse set of economic tasks in daily life.  Harpoons, fish hooks, needles, knives of all sorts... more arresting is the adornment often found on these implements."

In short, the significance of our sentience is marked by art.  It defines us.  It is who we are.

It is most certainly who I am.  I never thought I was an artistic person.  Good at writing, yes.  Art, no.  Somewhere along the line I decided I "couldn't draw anything but horses," and basically gave up on it, even the horses.  The best advice my painting teacher ever gave me -- maybe the best advice I have ever been given -- was "Don't be afraid."  Make your mark.  What's the worst that could happen?  More of us should live this way too.

It is grey and rainy today.  Punxsatawney Phil promised us only two more weeks of winter, and while it's been an almost disturbingly mild one here in Tennessee, I for one am ready for the greys and browns to give way to blues and greens.  I will go outside and paint, and I will not be afraid.

Carpe diem.  And when you seize this day, let there be art in it.