by Catherine Wells
Director, Pointe-St-Charles Art School
“If everyone was an artist there would be no war.” This said to me by an Iranian taxi driver as he dropped me off in front of the art school. How true. I think about this a lot, and it is probably one of the reasons why I work to get people interested and involved in art.
Throughout the twentieth century two world wars, economic depression and social upheaval occurred at the same time as the good life was touted for all. The twenty-first has added its share of war and economic uncertainly, as well as the recognition (finally!) of the effects of a clash between nature and human activity; not to mention that the optimism of the young for a good life for themselves and their children is eroding – and being eroded.
All though human history, artists, poets, philosophers, dreamers and all thoughtful individuals keep working on the idea of what humanness is and can be – of humaneness. It’s an ongoing struggle to hear their voices and ideas amidst the forces of greed and ignorance and the effects of abuse and poverty. A tension arose and continues to ensue between the forces of corporatism and humanism – between institutionalized war and and a vastly unfair distribution of wealth – and an ongoing struggle on the part of many to improve human rights, accept human responsibilities, and develop a just global society.
However, it is one thing to be a pacifist artist who has no personal experience of war and speak like this, and another to spend time with people who have actually gone to war. Carlo Valle, a volunteer at our school, is a former U. S. marine. I met him “on the phone” when he was soliciting donations on behalf of my – and now his – alma mater, Concordia University. A wonderfully curious and amiable man, he wanted to know all about the school and what we were doing here, and then offered his considerable talents, energy and goodwill to help us out. He answers phones and makes calls, takes notes, meets and greets, works on our business plan, databases, scheduling, and so much more. His enthusiasm for our cause is inestimable. And during our busy days we do manage to find time to have some marvelous conversations. It is interesting for me to hear his “war stories” and his educated ideas about the complexities, follies and inevitability of war. I am introducing him in this blog as he has just written an essay called War and Wisdom. Read it here: https://medium.com/point-of-decision/war-and-wisdom-11508832ff55
Like Carlo, a committed individual has always been willing to struggle with the truth and attempt to show it to others. This is the work of each of us who chooses it; who elects to seek out the creative spirit and engage it; to feel discomfort and take up the struggle against injustice; to pursue the truth, personal and philosophical; to grow with the process and take responsibility for oneself and respond to society and each other with respect and integrity.
That is why it is so important to foster individual development – and art is an especially good way to do this: it can make us feel fulfilled and productive, so we can contribute to our society and culture and leave behind us wonderful, helpful ideas and objects so others in turn can evolve. We human beings, in our peculiar capacity to project our inner world onto the outer, may one day be able to humanize the world with the best of what we find within and imagine it into “something like a materialized soul” (Ortega Y Gasset).
I imagine my taxi driver would agree – perhaps if we had had a longer ride…