happy birthday, milton!
his words (via brain pickings):
Art performs this pacifying function in culture… Its practitioners create commonalities… I always quote a guy named Lewis Hyde, who wrote about primitive cultures, where there’s an exchange of gifts that cannot be kept but have to be passed on. And the passing on of gifts is a device to prevent people from killing one another, because they all become part of a single experience. And his leap of imagination occurs when he says, ‘And this is what artists do in culture – artists provide that gift to the culture, so that people have something in common.’
And I think that for all of us who identify with the role of artists in history have that intuition about things, and want our work to serve that purpose.
There’s nothing more exciting than seeing someone whose life has been affected in a positive way by something you’ve said. There’s nothing more exciting than to see somebody change from a sort of condition of inertness or inattentiveness into a mind that begins to inquire about meaning.
I think if you don’t do something to project into the future that way, the possibility for total self-absorption and narcissism becomes very much greater.
If you can sustain your interest in what you’re doing, you’re an extremely fortunate person. What you see very frequently in people’s professional lives, and perhaps in their emotional life as well, is that they lose interest in the third act. You sort of get tired, and indifferent, and, sometimes, defensive. And you kind of lose your capacity for astonishment – and that’s a great loss, because the world is a very astonishing place.
What I feel fortunate about is that I’m still astonished, that things still amaze me. And I think that that’s the great benefit of being in the arts, where the possibility for learning never disappears, where you basically have to admit you never learn it.
love all that he says. giving the gift of a “single experience”…. sparking someone to “inquire about meaning”…. dedicating your life to something where the “possibility for learning never disappears”…. that is the work of an artist, and really an artist’s work can be the work of anyone. i believe it can be the work of anyone who creates a gift for others. a deliciously crafted plate of food, an infographic that helps clarify knowledge, a classroom of students that are truly learning… all of these things may have a price but they won’t ever truly redeem the full, immeasurable value they bring in quantifiable terms. i believe that is the gift of creating. when you create, no one can tell you where the value of what you created stops. how can they? the gift keeps on giving.