Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Playwright Edward Albee argues that what separates us from animals isn't our ability to use tools or possess a soul -- it's our desire to create art:

I hold that we are the only animal that makes art, and I'm convinced that this is part of the evolutionary process. We all used to have a tail, you know. Not a collective one, you understand, but we still have a jut of bone at the base of our spine called the coccyx, and that is the vestigial remnant of our tails. You still have this jut of bone; don't look now, but take it as we must so much on faith. To simplify just a little bit, what happened is this: Somewhere along the line in the evolutionary process, our tails fell off and we grew art.
For most writers, this would be a strong enough point, but Albee goes further, chiding us to understand the repercussions in a society where art is no longer valued:

[B]roadly speaking, the [artists] we rightly put up on pedestals have less influence on the mind and morality of this country than their intellectual and creative inferiors. We know it is commerce that determines this, which equates popularity with excellence. But I warn you, if the finest minds and talents cease to matter in the larger cultural picture, we are in serious trouble, and our culture is in serious decline.