19 October, 2011

Art as collective therapy? (part 2)

This post picks up some threads from the last one, heading in a different direction. It stems from some time exploring the entwined psychological and metaphysical aspects of the question "why do i create?" and in terms of my encounter with the world, what is the result of that creative act? Do those two dimensions inform and discipline each other? 


Cleaning out my bookcase before a move, i came across a book a friend had handed me years ago. I never got around to reading "Mosquito: A natural history of man's most persistent and deadly foe", yet the title made me think. And after a little thinking, i have come to believe that the most persistent and deadly foe of Homo sapiens is, in fact, H. sapiens.*

As individuals, we grow, held back by convenient but damaging beliefs, by our myths, our defensive mechanisms, by childhood traumas and their resultant fears, rooted deeply in our subconscious. Unaware of their influence, we carelessly, subconsciously repress them - but if we are to reach our potential as individuals, we must bring them to the light. (On that thought, here's a song: take your medicine.)

So it is for societies as a whole, national or global. We possess a certain collective consciousness, a mentality, which forms to differing extents the basis for our individual mentalities. And like the individual, each collective consciousness has its convenient but damaging beliefs, myths, traumas and resultant fears. Take racism for example, or the excessive medical interventionism fueled by a stubborn unwillingness to simply accept our place in the cycle of death and physical reincarnation (better known as "compost"). 

Individuals, once aware of these blockages, can take action to dissolve them. We can use mindfulness, a  liquid-plumr of meditation and self-reflection. Our friends can hold these blockages up for us; we can consult professional counselors, therapists, inviting another person to journey with us as if holding a lamp, being a mirror. There is no shame to doing so. 

Yet for H. sapiens to reach our true potential, there is no simple corporate solution. It's not like you can take mankind and sit the whole lot of us down with a collective therapist. "So, can you tell me more about this feeling? Isn't it perhaps another manifestation of your fears?" 

It has occurred to me that you could look at different disciplines through this lens: If science is our collective problem-solving faculty, it is art and spirituality through which the collective consciousness engages in self-reflection and wrestles with our myths, with our convenient but damaging beliefs, at cultural and national scales. And it is my feeling that artists have a responsibility to consider this as an implicit basis of their work. 


*I'd hesitate to call myself a feminist, believing that men are equally oppressed by "the patriarchy" and its gender-role expectations, yada yada. Yet there is a certain smugness about most of the terms for our kind as a whole, a certain self-congratulatory connotation in words - such as "humanity", "mankind", and "man" - which i simply wish to avoid.