“The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?” – Douglas Adams, “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”.
By Douglas Harrington
Image (below) from secretsensations.org
Through architecture and construction we’ve come to learn that the triangle is the strongest geometric form in two dimensions and even stronger in three. Our nation’s Constitution suggests a trinity of individual rights: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Reading, writing and arithmetic for academia and three shifts for the factory.
There are many trinities and rules of three. To some artists, our trinity might be, art, food and love. Not necessarily in that order! The Rule of Thirds comes into play with composition and all color comes from the three primary prismatic colors, red, yellow and blue.
Theories by Montesquieu and later by Tyler and Morgan, work off of a common trinity; three steps a society emerges through on its evolutionary path. Savagery to Barbarism and on to Civilization. The academic understanding of the word (civilization) however, has nothing to do with peaceful coexistence. Surprisingly it is our agricultural, technological and engineering skills that define our civilization, not our “good manners”.
I wish I knew who originally coined this phrase because I think they deserve some profound recognition. It was passed on to me many years ago by an educator and has since become one of my favorite quotes:
“Academics make you smarter. Athletics make you stronger. And Art makes you human.” – Anonymous
I played sports growing up. Little League, high school wrestling, tennis and a little cross-country. I started lifting weights with the high school hulk around age fourteen or fifteen. He took me under his wing because I refused to stay down every time he put me there. We became good friends and I started lifting weights with some of the high school football players. Always play with those who are stronger than you; it always brings up your game.
But guess what? I’ve loved art ever since I could pick up a pencil, and high school almost crushed that for me. My art teacher became my adversary not my mentor. I don’t generally agree with the saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” It does educators a great disservice; but in his case…if it wasn’t for my grade school art teacher, Miss Del Plazo, I would never have fought so hard to be an artist. She fed my addiction with Ebony Jet Black pencils.
There’s much to be said for following a calling and more to be said for a culture that nurtures that calling in education. How many of us might be in a career that we actually love? How much more productive, efficient and satisfying would our lives be?
We discourage our artists from the beginning with warnings: “Sure, Art is a great thing to do. It’s a nice hobby, but what will you have to fall back on? (when you fail)” Art suddenly becomes secondary to our calling and survival, already a second class career not to be taken seriously. The time and labor the artist invests in addition to the “job” has no capital value in the great scheme of things. We scout and commodify the athlete’s career development as early as high school, up through college and their professional careers including how many times they beat their wives and abuse steroids. The artist has no spotlight in society until they are recognized sometimes near the end of their lives.
Although pop music has commercialized the term “artist” in many ways, art is an umbrella term for almost everything we do in life. It’s almost maddening how fickle society becomes toward it; applauding it for its elegance in providing everything we consider civilized, yet casting it aside when it shows us too much of ourselves or threatens our school’s academic or athletic budgets.
An argument can be made for a stronger and more three dimensional structure in our evolutionary process. Society has developed into many “two-dimensional” factions. We have Republicans and Democrats. Or economic structure is eliminating the middle class from its trinity, leaving only two points; rich or poor. The only thing we seem capable of are three dimensional wars.
We need to strengthen the third point in our sociological trinity. We need the arts for innumerable reasons. Like math, music and art are also universal languages that we exploit too little in our interactions with other cultures.
Understanding art has much to do with understanding identity. If I am moved by a work of art, the artist’s identity is of no importance to me. Other than valuing different things than I do, or having a different skin color or sexual preference, their art is the bomb and it speaks to me. In that we find commonality. In that we have a foundation for communication, coexistence and growth.
We’ll be following up with a story about a unique approach that’s being applied by a visionary from San Francisco. His program goes farther than just connecting art and artists to the community. It’s about realizing the “art” or the tools that already lie within the community and how the arts can become the catalyst for communication, empowerment and community unification between diverse ethnicities and lifestyles.