The Arts (Art)

by dhw, Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 13:57 (5670 days ago)

We've spent a good deal of time discussing suffering and the horrors of evolution, which seem to support the case for an indifferent universe. I'd like, though, to redress the balance a little by focusing on another aspect of life which I find very difficult to understand. If the decisive factor in natural selection is survival, how do we account for phenomena that have absolutely no practical function and yet appear to play a crucial role in the fabric of human life? - David Turell drew our attention to the work of Pim van Lommel as well as to his own knowledge of patients who have had near-death experiences and returned with accounts of an extraordinary light, warmth, sense of peace and love, euphoria etc. Such emotions are not, of course, confined to NDEs. People experience them all the time, even without recourse to hallucinatory drugs ... through the arts, sport, nature, human relations. To set the ball rolling, I'd like to focus on music. I want to know why Beethoven's 9th, Mahler's 2nd, Sibelius's 5th etc. have such a profound effect on me. If they don't do the same for you, then substitute anything that does. Music is a universal language, and yet it has no definable meaning of its own and no discernible function. Experts may "understand" it, and it involves the mastery of many techniques, but its appeal is purely aesthetic. The great composers, writers and artists are looked up to as giants of the human species, although generally their work has no practical value, does nothing to advance or even assist evolution, and has no bearing on our survival. - Atheism presupposes that there is nothing beyond the physical world, which is why it puts its faith in science (i.e. the study of the physical world) to explain everything. But quite apart from the mystery of life's origins, there are other mysteries that seem to me to defy physical explanation. Perhaps contributors can add to the list, explain the effects, or provide an answer to one of the questions most frequently asked when writers and artists visit schools: "Where do the ideas come from?" - .


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