Art is a conversation with the cultural unconscious

Yesterday, I asked about the worst advice a role model ever gave you.  Some of the answers were downright poisonous and abusive.  Others were advice from people who genuinely loved you, but were so afraid of the world that in passing on the lessons they themselves lived by, they crimped dreams.  “The world is a dangerous place…be [stiflingly] careful.”  Don’t dream, don’t be an artist, don’t fall in love, and so forth.    When role models, especially parents, warn of pain or injury if you “stray” off the marked path, it goes deep.

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This is one of the reasons that cultural imagery in books, film and television is important to me.  Who gets to be heroic?   Who rescues, or is rescued?  Who sacrifices lives and dreams?  Who lives or dies?  Who is beautiful, smart, ugly, good, or bad?    Who woos, mates, and reproduces?    The tropes are mostly unconscious, but in some ways, that’s the most difficult meme to deal with: the things that mirror the deep prejudices or beliefs or preferences of the artist, giving subtle lessons about who and what you are to be in the world.  And one of the problems is that they sneak out where you aren’t looking.  NO ONE can be conscious of every image they create.  I believe our unconscious preferences and values especially creep out when we are politicized about X.    We focus on X in our work, unaware that our attitudes about Y and Z are sneaking out around the edges.  This is why I tire of people saying: “well tell person of group W what they’re doing wrong…”   No, if I do that, they’ll get it right until their attention is pulled back to something else, at which time  their real attitudes will emerge again, like a rubber band snapping back into shape.  Better to encourage generative perspectives: love yourself, then extend your ego to include others.  That pretty much takes care of everything, if the artist extends far enough.  It’s tough, but it is the real work.  I’m prepared to dedicate my life to encouraging people to be awakened adults who root their actions and emotions in love.  It is a worthy goal.

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