I am a student of science and I strongly believe in the cause-effect theorem. Nothing in this world happens without a cause and almost everything has an effect on other things too. Often incidents and people I come across in my daily life try to seriously challenge my strong belief in this cause effect theorem. Often I am actually forced to ask myself the question whether a purpose, a cause, or a necessity is always the driving force behind whatever we see? But even more than that, what I do experience is that the notion of purpose itself has so different meanings for various people. Often a perfectly valid reason for someone might turn out to be a totally flimsy one for somebody else.
Let’s take the case of art itself. If we take a really materialistic outlook to our lives and the society we might find that the existence of art itself is purposeless. A person whom I know very closely (I’m not naming him here), is as anti-art as it can get. He is always looking for the bottomline out of everything. Believe me there are many such people out there. People who believe that listening to music, or watching a movie is a total waste of time if you do not learn any broad message from it. They are a stark contrast to those art loving people who are involved in the world of art purely for the pleasure of it.
But if I really try to reason out everything in materialistic terms it will be very easy to come to the conclusion that nothing other than agriculture, hunting, fishing etc (ie the primary sector) has any real significance or purpose. Millions of years ago when man first evolved on earth, he in fact had no job other than scavenging for food. As a matter of fact, any other animal, except human beings, are concerned with only these few needs – food, water, shelter, reproduction.
We humans on the other hand have so many other needs. And each time a need is fulfilled, five new ones arise. When men could easily gather food and still had idle time left over, they considered making clothes. In followed utensils and weapons. And slowly slowly the list kept on increasing. Of course it’s no big deal surviving witout cellphones, computers, internet, maybe even automobiles and electricity, but no one is going to try that out I guess.
Still the question remains unsolved. Why art? Are cinema, music, painting as important as automobiles and electricity? No one can answer definitively, but my opinion is that yes, art is definitely very necessary in our lives. Please don’t ask me to prove it, because that will be asking too much out of me. (And I cannot actually prove it with proper reasoning and logic). As a matter of fact art originated much before other technological advancements. There are thousands of years old cave paintings and other evidences that indicate towards the fact that art existed even at a time when man should not have wasted time on drawing stupid shapes on the cave walls and instead devoted more time towards more pressing issues like “development” or at least “improving agriculuture”. If we consider the proverb ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ then we also have to accept the fact that there must have been some inevitable ‘necessity’ that man had to ‘invent’ art forms. And this necessity has been around right since humans have existed. But actually putting a finger on that necessity is very difficult. Only those who are intimately entwined with art can feel that ‘necessity’, but no one can describe it in words.
There are many other aspects of our society that prove beyond doubt the existence of that necessity. The fact that cinema captures the imagination of millions, the fact that paintings are often auctioned at skyrocketing rates, the fact that the whole world hums the latest chartbuster music are all proofs that art is certainly a necessity, with or without the message it may contain.
Yes, we can very well do away with art and still survive as well. But then similarly we could also do away with electricity, automobiles and packaged food. (Because these things enhance our ability to survive just as much as art does). You can of course get away with one, or two, or even ten days without listening to music, seeing movies, appreciating paintings, reading or writing literary pieces. But then don’t you think you can do away with tubelights, your car, chocolates too?
Art is not something that always is required for any materialistic fulfilments, or to learn morals from. It is just needed. And it is best not to go hunting for “the purpose behind art”.