When you put your mind to such a simple, innocent thing, for example, as making a water color, you lose some of the anguish which derives from being a member of a world gone mad. ... You desist from improving the world or even yourself. You learn to see not what your want to see but what is. And what is is usually a thousand times better than what might be or ought to be.
If we could stop tampering with the universe we might find it a better world than we think it to be. After all, we've only occupied it a few hundred million years, which is to say that we are just beginning to get acquainted with it. And if we continue another billion years there is nothing to assure us that we will eventually know it. In the beginning as in the end, it remains a mystery. And the mystery exists or thrives in every smallest part of the universe. It has nothing to do with size or distance, with grandeur or remoteness. Everything hinges upon how you look at things.
In my mind, as I read it, this quote resonated with what I'd been thinking about when reading A History of the World in 100 Objects. What did Henry Miller say? "When you put your mind to such a simple, innocent thing, for example, as making a water color, you lose some of the anguish which derives from being a member of a world gone mad." Well, it immediately took me back to some things I'd said in the previous post:
Something happened to the human brain between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago. We started to be creative: we started to make patterns and decorate things.
And, from the book itself:
According to [social anthropologists], we're all trying to cope with modern big-city life equipped only with a Stone Age social brain.
What occurred to me was that, whatever the initial reason for us exploring our creativity all those years ago, when we make art today, perhaps we are trying to put ourselves at ease and reconnect with the ancient parts of our own minds - the people who we are, and who we know so little about.
Am I going back far enough? When we first became creative all those millenia ago were we trying to reclaim something then, too? Is that when people started to feel a sense of detachment from what they had been in the past? Did people consider themselves, then, (as Henry Miller put it, above) to be inhabiting "a world gone mad"? Quite possibly. The human brain might have changed slightly, but also:
"Ice Age conditions were critical... it was a very challenging time for people living in harsh, long winters - the need to build up really intense social bonds, the need for ritual, the need for religion, all these related to this flowering of creative art at the time."
Prof. Steven Mithen, University of Reading, quoted in A History of the World in 100 Objects.
So, I suppose, for "making a water colour" we can read carving a piece of ivory, or painting a cave. Speculation - but obvious, in a way.