Art will shape your values

I was talking to my friend T.K. Coleman today about the role art plays in shaping your values. Ayn Rand has a great quote on this in The Romantic Manifesto that get’s at what we were talking about:

Art is the indispensable medium for the communication of a moral ideal . . . This does not mean that art is a substitute for philosophical thought: without a conceptual theory of ethics, an artist would not be able successfully to concretize an image of the ideal. But without the assistance of art, ethics remains in the position of theoretical engineering: art is the model-builder . . .

It’s my belief that you can tell very quickly the kind of art a person grew up consuming. If you grew up watching old western movies, I think it’s easy to tell. If you grew up consuming post modern trash, I think it’s easy to tell. If you grew up watching movies that told you that you must choose between your career and your family, that will probably affect how you view the world.

Once you know the signs to look for, you can start to become a sort of “art detective” and uncover the kind of artistic tastes people have before they tell you.

So if this all happens to be true, if art holds this power over us, what do we do? The obvious answer is to consume good art. What’s more, you should regularly consume art that reflects your highest ideals because that will get you closer to achieving those ideals.

But there’s another responsibility that is less obvious but maybe more important: make your own art. If the process of consuming art provides you with, as Ayn Rand said, a “model” for a “moral ideal,” then creating art is that and more. I know of no better way to understand yourself and how you view your place in the world than this process.