As usual, it was the images that grabbed me.
I was gazing at pictures of people fleeing to safety amid the confusion and pandemonium of the bombings in Brussels. Dozens and dozens of people were either killed or hurt. Tragic.
Upon seeing these images on the news, I knew what I had to do. I had to write these words. Ironically, I've just completed and posted an interview that I did with Belgian artist Wim Bals. Wim paints surreal and hyperreal images using techniques of the old masters, but he creates fun, fresh and comical 21st Century subjects. He told me that he does this partly because there's so much bad news in the world. Go figure.
I sent Wim an email asking if he and his family and friends were okay. More on that in a moment.
Terrorism has truly gone global. We have to combat this with care, concern and reaching out to others even when we're separated by miles, oceans, land and mountains.
Whenever something like this happens, we immediately point fingers at entire races of people. We often blame entire cultures for the violent acts of a few evil radicals. We cannot do this. When we do, we lose our humanity and terrorism really DOES win the day. This is exactly what terrorists want. They want chaos and confusion. They want cultures of evil and hatred. They want us to dissolve into bickering and conflict. They want civility to become brutal inhumanity. They want us all to fall into the abyss.
When we're at each other's throats, THEY WIN. You don't have to be Einstein to figure that out. All you have to do is actually use the brain God gave you and don't allow yourself to be manipulated by fearmongers who try to get people all riled up.
As I'm typing these words, I have my television turned to the Today Show where they're discussing the bombing. You know, I don't know about you, but whenever I hear about acts of terrorism, I immediately think about contemporary art. Seriously.
I also think about education, childhood abandonment and people led astray. What causes someone, anyone, but mainly radically-minded people to do such a thing? How did they become so radicalized?
It's bad enough to attack an enemy or someone you know well enough to hate, but it's quite another to hurt and kill people you don't even know. These innocent people had kids and family members who depended on them. I'm sure many of them had children who need to be taught about what hatred and evil often do and how they can navigate their way through the world and hold onto hope and faith in the midst of confusion.
And now this.
I have absolutely no scientific research to back this up, but I do strongly believe that terrorism and random acts of violence can be traced to a person's childhood. What went wrong back in first grade? What did someone do to them when they were twelve years old? When you combine childhood tragedy with the inability to express oneself, you've got a recipe for future disaster.
Again, this is why I think we need to return to arts education. Can art save the world? Hmm. I don't know. However, I do believe that art gives us outlets for creative expression. Art helps us to express what we may not be able to utter with our mouths. Art gives us the ability to release emotion and intellect before they build up inside of us and balloon into something that becomes angry, frustrated, stale, rancid and then hatred-filled, evil and vengeful.
I know full well that you may be thinking, "Has this guy lost his mind? He thinks art can cure evil and terrorism?
No, I don't think that art can cure the ills of society, but art can treat what latches onto us in the early stages of development. Art can give outlets for what needs to be addressed in our lives as individuals. Creating art and looking at art are almost the same action, but on opposite sides of the picture. Engaging with art either through creation or observation gives us a pathway to healing.
It's called Art Therapy and it works. The longer we continue to ignore the value of art, the humanities and reconnecting with our own souls, the more we'll continue to see random acts of violence. This is what happens when emotional issues reach the boiling point.
Can art save the world? No, but art CAN be the medicine to help prevent the very emotional ailments that lead to violence. Terrorism is a mental health issue. It's a spiritual crises. It's a cry for attention and help ... for both the perpetrators and their victims. Art CAN be the healing balm to help us come to terms with what has happened and steer us all in a different direction.
I don't know. Maybe I just love art so much that I'm trying to justify it. We can come up with all sorts of ways to justify what we love. But does love need justification? Does art need justification?
Art is like air. Art is like oxygen. You sure miss it when it's not there ... and you'll resort to almost anything to get some when it's missing. How else can we explain the fact that tourists almost always visit art museums? Art gives us LIFE.
I just got an email reply from Wim Bals. Here's what he says, plus my response:
"Hello Michael, I'm ok here. It is not easy now to make these paintings, but I must continue!"
"Hi Wim, Good. I'm glad you're okay. Yes, you MUST continue painting. We need you! Your work is a ray of light."
Can art save the world?
No, but it's sustaining me and it's healing Wim ... as we stand on opposite sides of the picture. I assume art is also saving you too, dear reader, otherwise you wouldn't have read this far, No?
Thank God that we can find healing and redemption through art. Art is His tool and I'd say that's a pretty good start.
No, art cannot save the world, but it can save you and me.