Does Life Imitate Art?

Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw were correct: Art doesn’t Imitate Life, Life Imitates Art. As a young man I felt so much the opposite. We would draw oranges on tables, sketch trees, and thrill at the delicate outlines of a nude in art class. It felt like art came from nothing. It seemed it would always be that way, this artistic inspiration from the world around us.

But I see the facade of that idea. Oscar Wilde saw it towards the end of the 19th century – that the Modern World was changing, and that a rare few would come to understand Life imitating Art. For Art itself is the immanence beyond Life we must live within to achieve meaning.

The Greeks seemed proud to state that Life comes from Art. But I think this Modern technological age has flipped the script and shown us quite clearly that nothing we do or make or create has meaning beyond the Popularity Contest that is Western Culture now. Kids do not create, they imitate others and the fashion of the day now, caring less for what the sun or a tree or a face might portray. It matters when the artifice of meaning found in being famous fades, having money, or being popular, is all we are.

And this idea of Art as premier goes beyond digital ages. When we buy products or houses or land or riches we see in the Art of those things meaning. We derive artificial beliefs in their powers. We think they are articles to possess in order to get happiness, when in fact when we die that house, that land, and those possessions are ripped from us and given to another to hoard. The illusion is complete.

In fact the Art of those products and “things”, many or most of which is Man-made houses the power to convince us to live our lives to obtain them like money, worship them as idols as we do our bank accounts, and live believing they give us rights to Love, to popularity, to beyond-worldly powers and benefits. It’s no different than the reason we give to others today….the belief in that ability being a part of living and fitting into the artifice of society, the artificial belief that society as Art has taught us what is important when that too is a facade.

I’m not denying a rare few who genuinely live first then from life give and accept the things a good life provides.

But more and more we derive our meaning from the Art and Artifice of society around us. We respond to brands, political parties, and family traditions. We worship famous art, famous cars, famous people, all of which are art driving life….the lives of millions who believe in those idols.

I’ve also mentioned the secret symbols of ancient myths that bind us all together so tightly to ancient assumptions about holidays, the changing seasons, and even Human relationships.

For the reverse to return, Life Imitating Art, we would have to live life for experience and our hearts free of the influence of family, our peers, our society, living as one bound to one’s beliefs and inspired 100% by Nature and the world. We must be slaves to our own imaginations once again in a quiet room, seeing but the genuine faces of others we once loved in our minds eye, and the hidden truths and lies of life and of the cultures we live in for what they are, but as an act upon a stage. We would then be free of the shackles of the the artifice of capitalistic myths, political laments, and the hollow promises of money.

We would all become Creators and yet grand Artists in some way, deriving meaning from living life and it’s rare and wondrous experiences that mold our cold clay. That ability is gone for most people in this digital age of online popularity contests and product mythology. Tragic indeed!

It’s why all the great movie makers, writers, programmers, musicians, and artists are the billionaires in society. The Creators of the world who separate out from society and derive only Art from Life now own and control the rest of us.

Knowing we are trapped responding to the Art of others, we must admit we have becomes ensnared of the Beauty so many people now make from their own experiences and imaginations. It shows how the world has changed. It shows why we value now more and more the rare escapes left from culture in which are lives are alone one with Nature, or a romantic partner, or as a lone musician, or a hollow tree, or a sunset burning one last ember beneath the clouds. For those things stand as something valuable to derive from. The remain Life with some Eternal Art only the Creator may ever fashion.

Sad, but Oscar Wilde saw over 100 years ago the fate of Western Society becoming itself a shallow form of Art, one that drives the people before it with its corporate, consumerist myths and false idols. But I agree now with his deeper views…that truly we were always the only Art that was fashioned.

— the Author

Created Jan 9, 2019, 9:53 PM



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