Friday, August 19, 2016

Freedom Will Not Set You Free, and Related Observations

You may not find truth if you are looking for mere facts.

You may not know the truth if you know only facts.

You may not reflect the truth if you are turned only toward facts.

Our world is awash, it reels in a deluge of information and facts. Those facts may be statistical or be facts of imagery and sensation. That which can be received and immediately comprehended is a fact. Ours is an informational Age. We decry limitations in the name of the idol of access.

When everyone can be anything and all knowledge can be everywhere...that is freedom. Freedom as an end, not as a means. Since when did freedom become an end in itself? Perhaps when people tired of explaining why it mattered, or when they forgot why. Or when the ends of this world had disappointed too many too soon for the call to freedom to mean anything but as an end in itself, to serve the best possible outcome in any given situation.

Freedom without an end, love without an end. What do they mean? Can love exist without an object, a beloved? Can freedom exist without a goal: the right to vote, free speech, equality of the races, equality of the sexes? Does it make any sense to speak of freedom without an end in mind? Is information valuable merely by being information?

I believe that freedom has lost its object, and that our love of information in lieu of truth is to blame.

To my way of thinking, the artist stands in two worlds. In one, his work satisfies a particular end composed in his time, created from out of a self that positions itself, consciously and unconsciously. with respect to a culture or cultures. That is one aspect of the artist.

The artist also stands in a world outside particular reference in that his work and life participates in the lives and the work of those around him, and in his predecessors and his successors. The language of one's medium is, in this sense, the information one needs to work. The goal is the work of art itself. Even as artists are pressured to deconstruct the object they continue to compose meaningful work.

Much of what is written these days seems mannered or insipid. Sentimental, mostly. But the painterly, visual arts are strong. In this Golden Age of Information - rather like the Renaissance in its outward show of worldly profundity - the visual arts are where the action is. As a culture we rush to the video tape as if the truth finally will be revealed. The crime scene, the family photo, even pictures of cats. Anything to cut through the haze of all-access all the time.

What is truth in the present Age? It is what truth has been in all Ages, of course, we can be sure. The question is how do we as individuals serve that truth, how do we orient ourselves? What do we address, and to what end? Will we be satisfied with information as an end in itself? What's the plan for getting from here to there, where truth resides?

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