Welcome to our day of reckoning.
Sirens approach, heralding nearing disasters. Catastrophes invade our countries, our states, our cities, our homes, our bodies.
Fires rage, both actual and metaphorical.
And I write.
I document disaster in tiny print, writing smaller and smaller, writing myself down a spiral of denial. The illusion of control boils away in the heat.
In my unscathed kitchen, I climb ladders to the high cabinets of my resolve, but my resolve is not sufficient to shift the world on its axis.
And still, I write.
And I wonder: If the world contained only love and were free of suffering, would art—by which I mean all forms of artistic expression, from sculpture to literature—exist?
Surely others have wondered this. I Google “can you have art in a Utopian society?” I find art installations about Utopias and a website about the concept and practice of utopianism. I find a TEDx talk about why we would be happier without Utopia. I discover that we love Utopia’s opposite, at least in fiction.
I find no answer to my question. Only more questions.
Conflict sparks art.
In a Utopia, the only conflict would be fictional. If we lived in a world without hate, oppression, violence, and natural disasters, could we imagine the scenarios that would produce engaging works of art? In the absence of a prototype derived from reality, is the human imagination powerful enough to conceive the conflict necessary for art? Would such a world bring us Michaelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Sylvia Plath, Hemingway, David Foster Wallace?
Would we want to live in that world?
Never mind art for now.
While conflict and trauma may provide the impetus for art, we cannot create art from within the vortex of tragedy. Artists cannot be starving or bleeding or suffering flashbacks at the moment of creation. First, they must be safe. Then, maybe, art can help them heal.