“Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty?” – Paul Gauguin
Recently I had a reunion with a group of friends from my engineering college. They belong to various professional fields, like banking, telecom, software and even publishing. It was a pleasant meeting but what surprised me the most was how they looked down on my choice to quit the corporate world to become a filmmaker. On the surface they seemed very encouraging and supportive. However during our long conversation over unending servings of beer and whiskey (I do not drink alcohol, so I was on my usual dosage of marijuana) things started to turn ugly. And I realised how these people who I grew up with, those who had wonder in their eyes and dreams in their hearts have become products of social engineering designed to chase fabricated greed and social norms of success. They have hardened beyond a point where they cant even appreciate logic in an open discussion. It was shocking to see how they would disregard, even vilify art and philosophy to justify their mainstream ethos of materialism and defend their own superficiality.
I tried to understand their point of views. Nobody told that everyone had to have creative aspirations. Civilisation needs people from all walks of life and all kinds of profession. In fact nobody in the group (I mean myself) criticised materialism or capitalism etc on a macro scale. I did not question their professional choice even once. However it seemed that the consensus among the group was that art and philosophy are basically waste of time and nobody practically needs them.
In a country like India, where half the population lives under poverty line, it is understandable to question the relevance of art. However none of these folks are remotely deprived. All of them are successful professionals, drive swanky cars, have nice apartments, families and dogs. The only person who has some financial difficulties at the moment is me, because of my career choice. So why would they behave like this? Is it because of guilt or jealousy? Or some sort of inferiority complex? Or did it root from the regret that they failed to pursue artistic careers (one guy played guitar really well) for the safety of financial security? I didn’t know. But I tried to reason with them.
Humans became civilised from being savages through reasoning. And the discipline of reasoning is called philosophy. The entire human history and intellectual evolution, knowledge, opinion, science, technology, commerce and even modern day jobs grow their roots in philosophy. My friends were talking about nationalism, economics and even social concepts like marriage etc and how they are way more important than something trivial as arts and philosophy. I was aghast at their ignorance. Their nationalism and political ideas came from philosophy. There would be no state, no country, no concept of marriage or money if there was no philosophy. And here they devalue and demean philosophy. How naive! Art is the expression and wonder of philosophy where as science is the logic and analysis of it. Not having any regards for philosophy! How do people live like that? It is such a pathetic waste of opportunity to be born as a human and then fail to notice the beauty around us and wonder.
One’s choice of profession doesn’t automatically give a person upper hand in aesthetics or reasoning. O’Henry was a fraudster. Einstein was a clerk. Faraday was a bookbinder. Van Gogh was a failed priest. Michael Bay is a film director. Surely if only profession was the criteria Bay would have had an upper hand in aesthetics. We know that is not the case. So I am not trying to prove superiority over any individual based on their profession including my friends. In fact I have been an analyst for seven years before I went to a film school. But to live without a sense of wonder, to not be able to see beauty in nature and life and art, to not be able to ask questions and question reality is a terrible way to live. And it seems most humans miss that gift.
It is my duty to speak for art and philosophy because I am a soldier of Cinema. If I do not fiercely believe in those faculties how will I act on them? Art is and always will remain the founding stones of humanity. Unlike countries, nationalities, political ideas, armies and materialism, art will be constant and relevant till the demise of human race. Not losing the sense of wonder is the essence of being human. And hence it’s a sacrilege to disregard art and philosophy, even if you happen to be an accountant or an insurance agent.
Featured artwork: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, 1897 by Paul Gauguin