Stories on the edge of familiarity

How the Value of Art is Like the Meaning of Life

Dear five year old me,

I discovered the point of art! Remember when you were wondering why you even kept those stickers in your sticker book? Sure, they were pretty, and it was nice to open up the book and look at them, but they didn’t do anything for you.

What would happen if you had all the stickers in the world that you loved and then there were no more to gain? You’d have walls and books and bedframes full of stickers, and you wouldn’t be happy with them. Once you had them, all you could do with them was look at them sometimes, and what was the gain in looking? What did that do for anything? They couldn’t do anything to add value to the world; they would just sit there and look back at you as if to ask:

“Now what? Don’t you have something better to do with your time?” Stickers were nice, but so very, very useless.

And yet, even after thinking all that, you wanted the beautiful ones for something. There was a reason to have beautiful things. People had always had beautiful things, all the way back to Adam and Eve, and God had given people things like flowers, so you knew that there had to be a reason. It was only a matter of finding it.

Gotta say, it’s humbling to think of your faith now. It’s been sixteen years since you saw the end from the beginning, and now it’s here.

The value/point/purpose/meaning of art:

We take, say, a horse statue, and bring it into a room. We put it on a table, then in the corner, then on a shelf. We fidget with it, tweak its position until, finally, like that last piece sliding into a puzzle, it’s in the right place. How do we know it’s in the right place? Because the whole room has just become even more beautiful than it already was.

That’s it; that’s the purpose, the value of art. It doesn’t do anything. It just is, and its beauty shines out from what it is, because that beauty and that shine is a part of what the art is.

Now, that art doesn’t have to be in the perfect place in the room to be beautiful, we both know that, but neither does it have to be only in that room to make everything around it beautiful. It could do that for any number of rooms, any number of art galleries, any number of locations. But that’s not even the most amazing thing: Art could be in the worst place possible, surrounded by ugliness, squalor, and despair, and none of that would matter. It would still be beautiful, that beauty would still shine from it, and it would still beautify its surroundings.

You’re right; your stickers don’t do anything. They just are what the artist created them to be, and that’s all that matters to them.

There’s something else, though. This truth about art that you knew even though you hadn’t discovered the knowledge yet, this is about you as well. God is the great artist, and he made you as a work of art. Someday, you’ll think about things like purpose and the meaning of a person’s life, and the answer is this:

Your purpose and meaning aren’t fulfilled by doing things. They’re fulfilled by being who you were created to be.

Now, we’re not exactly like art; we can forget who we are. We can choose to believe lies about ourselves. We can try to live like those lies are true. But do you know what you do when you’re trying to change your life? When you’re trying to be who you were created to be? You can’t ask other pieces of art what the artist was thinking when he made you; they don’t know. If you want to change, you only need ask your Artist who he made you to be. Ask God who you are, and believe him. He knows what he’s talking about. After all, he created your meaning.

One day, you’ll finally understand this. Until then, keep on being beautiful. You’re good at it. :)

Sincerely,

Yourself at twenty-one.

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2 Responses to How the Value of Art is Like the Meaning of Life

  1. Thank you so much for this lovely post! I was looking for something beautiful to inspire me tonight, and I found it. :)

    I like the paragraphs about how we can forget who we are, and also about the art in the dirtiest of places which can still be beautiful. That latter brought so many images to my head, including street art, which can be so amazing, even while surrounded by garbage and broken concrete.

    Very well written. Thank you.

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