This article will be slightly more personal than usual. I might include this in my upcoming book, but we’ll see.
The other night, I was walking with my best friend, who is a Christian. As everyone who’s read my writing for any length of time already knows, I’m an atheist and have been for nearly a decade. He and I were talking about my life: what it has been and what we optimistically believe it’s going to be. At one point, my best friend started to talk about his religious perspective on the subject. While I, of course, did not share the same religious perspective, I did tell him something that I was hoping would make him at least a little happy:
“This may surprise you, Mitch, but I actually do believe in spirituality and miracles. It’s just that I don’t believe in them the same way you do. I don’t believe in them in a literal sense, like there is an alternate physical realm that contains individualistic beings like ghosts or angels. The way I believe in spirituality is in a, well, spiritual way. Take music for example: When we listen to music we love, we feel a sense of peace and joy that we cannot touch, but we know is there. You can remember tunes and lyrics, but it never compares to listening to the music in the moment. That’s the kind of spirituality I believe in. It’s when we humans, in some way, transcend from the physical, even if it’s just for a moment, to spend a little time forgetting reality.”
Of course, I don’t remember word-for-word what I said to him, but that was fairly close to it.
Escapism, in a nutshell. A summation of the concept of ‘art.’
Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, there is a truth we must all accept. Our bodies are made of chemicals. Chemicals that can be found all over the universe, and even all over our own solar system. Personally, I accept the consensus across the worldwide scientific community that life on Earth is billions of years old and evolved after some kind of abiogenesis. If this is true, and even if it isn’t, what we are, down to our very chemical makeup, tells an incredible story…
“We are one. We are the universe.”
Life on Earth, including us, is not separate from the rest of outer space, we are part of it. We came from it. We are the universe, looking back at itself, trying to understand itself. What could be more beautiful than that?
The same way life has changed across eons, so have the galaxies. We live and we die, just like the stars themselves.
It is my belief that artistically-inclined people understand this better than others, whether they’re consciously aware of it or not. At the end of the day, it’s just a painting, or a music track, right? Or is it something more? Thinking about this has made me realize: The universe would be a waste of space and material if there were no life in it, and the existence of life would be a waste if it weren’t for art.
You can measure the size of mountains or the depths of oceans, but you cannot measure beauty. Just like how DNA is more than just chemicals – it’s information – I believe there is more to the universe than just what’s floating through it. That meaning is the art we create, even if the creators themselves don’t know it.
Now, you might be saying, “Michael, isn’t ‘beauty’ a subjective term? Isn’t it just a human concept made by our brains, probably for survival reasons, to be more attracted to some things and less attracted to others?”
Yes, it is, but at some level, I think it’s safe to say we all know beauty is real. I can’t explain it, and I don’t even claim to understand it, but despite my heavily-skeptic mind, I can’t deny it’s real. Think about the existence of numbers. Do numbers technically exist? Can you touch a number, or smell it, or hear it? No, but we know numbers are real, because they are what we use to understand the universe, and numbers are always consistent no matter which way you use them. Numbers exist within the universe without actually being physically part of it, and I believe meaning and beauty are the same way. I could be wrong, of course, and I welcome anyone to prove me wrong if they can. Until then, I see no reason to think otherwise.
So, when I see an image of a nebula, or if I create one on a computer for fun, and I think it’s beautiful, I can prove to myself it’s beautiful even if I can’t prove it objectively. I’m not wrong, even if I can’t prove I’m right. What an image means to me cannot be falsified, nor does it need to be for any reason. Something undeniably exists within the image, within all images, even if it cannot be measured with pixels or found in the chemical makeup of the paint.
I don’t believe heaven is a physical place we go to after our bodies die, but that doesn’t mean I deny its existence entirely. Besides, making heaven so literal is an insult to the concept itself, in my opinion.
Have any artistic needs, such as writing or video editing assistance? I offer my skills for very low prices. Look at the menu above, or click here.