Here's a problem that has been running through my mind since I started my first college literature course. Should art aspire towards ambiguity or certainty? Is Paradise Lost, where such basic questions as whether Eve was a positive or negative character were debated over in Literature I, or To Kill a Mockingbird, "Walk a mile in their shoes before judging them?" sounds pretty clear to me, to be lauded? Not that certainty is all that certain anymore, not when you can make Fight Club into an adult Calvin and Hobbes, but there are times when the creator's intent is bleeding clear as in 1984.
Why is Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Well besides the intriguing mathematical principles da Vinci used, all I ever hear about is the smile, enigmatic and different to every person who views it. Ambiguity wins here.
But then again, when did ambiguity ever lead to something besides a great thesis or theory? The world's greatest and longest standing religions? All have nice numbered lists with elements that are nigh impossible to take in any other direction at the center of their faith. The Ten Commandments? The Five Pillars of Faith? The Four Noble Truths? The Eightfold Path? The Golden Rule? Not much wiggle room in those.
It's kind of cheating though to bring these in. They have their artistic and literary elements, but, centrally, they're not about those. Wait a minute though. This just occured to me. What is art but one's perception of reality, and what is religion if not what reality is and how we should exist within it? How does this relate? I'm not sure, but it sounds pretty cool to me.
How about this then? You want to change the world? Give it something distinct and clear. Want to be remembered? Give people the ability to choose the perception they find in your own. Neither can be placed higher than the other (unless, I guess, if you're going to argue against the existence of an ultimate truth that a religion can lay claim to). Art can introduce nuance to religion, but you can't very well live by it while you can live by a religion. They both have their places and must be recognized for what they are.
2 years ago