Thursday, August 30, 2012

On My Soapbox For Art

Last week I was enjoying a comfortable morning, sitting in a friend's backyard swing. We talked about knitting (she is my knitting mentor) and then we started chatting about my grand art theories and my recent blog post about measuring the physical effects of art on the brain. We are both into Waldorf Education, so I consider us very like-minded. In the midst of the conversation, my dear friend jumped in with a great pointreally the "aha" momentwhen she said that petting a cat lowers blood pressure, which is measurable. My point exactly. No major scientific breakthrough really ought to be possible to measure the impact of art on the brain (and/or the body).

So back to my previous blog post: This Is Your Brain...On Art, I think the connection to be made is this: given that Happiness and Compassion studies are happening right now, an important task would be a long-term study about how interacting with art has a measurable impact on the brain and could possibly counter-balance the effects of digital consumption.

Stanford has The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). Since the fear and measurable probability is that brains are being changed by digital consumption, for example: are violent video games making kids more violent? With the brain as the last frontier, what scientists should consider is what makes a healthy brain. Measuring the brain centers that link to compassion and altruism, one has to wonder where art interactions fit. 

I think there is a strong connection between "beauty" and compassion and altruism. Of course, I can only discuss this anecdotally, but consider the impact of nature. Studies have been done, are being done that show how important connecting with nature is to the human psyche. Much of what people connect with is the beauty. Is there a value in beauty? 

Now let's consider the Puritans, whose impact can still be felt when it comes to art. Is it possible to discuss the intersection of a Puritan ethic in art rippling toward a wave that crashes against joy, beauty, digital consumption and brain health? (That is probably a dissertation waiting to be written.)

As a summation of the tumultuous thoughts swirling in my brain, here's what I think we need: a national conversation about the "value" of art and the human mind's need for it (What makes us human? Our ability to make symbols?) This is a conversation that needs to happen now, to figure out how to balance the brain changes that are happening from digital consumption.

Phew...I know it's just a blog post, but finally I get to have my own soap box. My call to arms: WE NEED ART!

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