Art and the Soul

We're made for it, as even science shows us.

“Hardship can lead us back to our authentic self, providing we’re resilient enough to emerge on the other side. But there is a gentler way. The arts! Paintings, movies, dances, statues, poems, stories, architecture – all have the power to move us emotionally, make us feel small and out of our depth, force us to re-think … and to re-feel.” So writes Julia F. Christensen in her 26 February 2021 Aeon article, “To the core.”

The article is primarily about discovering and living according to our authentic self. But to do this, we have to get in touch with and live from our inner reality, the truth of who we are in the depths of our being, and not just who want others to think we are.

Sometimes it takes hardship for us to face up to our real selves. But Dr. Christensen insists the arts can help us achieve a measure of authenticity to make our lives richer and more meaningful.

We need to discover our true selves and be true to them, but virtuously, without harming, offending, or taking advantage of others. Art can lead us to develop good habits and positive change in all aspects of our social and moral life. One doesn’t have to be an artist to benefit from the arts. Merely participating in art by study, observation, listening, and so forth has beneficial effects for discovering our true selves.

But making art can be more fruitful: “And when you make art yourself, remember this: actions activate specific patterns of neural activity in our brain. It is up to us to make our brain light up in the best possible patterns, through the actions we perform. That’s how what we do shapes who we are.

Participating in the arts can have positive personal benefits that translate into every are of our calling in life. We are made for beauty and creativity. Let’s not neglect this important aspect of what it means to be human.


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