Masturbation isn't quite useless

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it.  The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

- Oscar Wilde
Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray

I've heard Tolkien's work described as him building with words what, say, an electric train enthusiast builds with hot glue guns and foamcore (or whatever they use).  Tolkien made a little world for himself out of the very descriptions of that world.  Other writers do much the same in ways of their own.  Personally, I tend to occupy a mental space made more out of ideas and perspectives than narratives and characters, but the principle is the same.

When I write, I'm taking my thoughts and crystallizing them into something tangible until I can let go of them or at least let them run in the background of my consciousness.  Until I get it out of my system, I am nagged by recurrent thoughts that won't let me be.  Any guy would read that last sentence as a description of masturbation.  See, masturbation is all about getting it out of your system.  As pleasurable as the process might be (given the right stimulation), you're happiest when it's over because you've abated an otherwise distracting drive for a while... at least until it builds back up again.

On the other hand, masturbation typically isn't a spectator sport where I'm concerned (I don't speak for everyone, obviously).  Some of my friends journal privately, but that seems like a waste.  I do at least share a lot of what I write even if only (and I've been criticized for this) sparingly or at least on my own terms.  For example, I restrict personal items (i.e., things about myself) to bulletins.  I reserve more general interest items to the blog.  Bulletins don't get commented on unless a reader emails me directly.  Bulletins have a much more limited audience.  Bulletins expire.  I have no idea how many folks even read them.  Odds are less than a quarter of my friend list once you subtract the friends who rarely log on or the bands with a few thousand friends or the friends with a few thousand bands on their list.  And some folks just don't care, but I don't care that they don't care.  I don't read everything everyone posts either.

What I do is share what I've written down because, hell, maybe you'll get something out of the way I waste my time trying to make sense of the world.  Maybe my thoughts will inspire thoughts of your own or maybe you'll learn something that will make you more productive in some way, even if it's just writing down what you're thinking about now.  I don't know that my writing is "art" exactly, but I appreciate it whenever I get admiring comments and I appreciate others making their thoughts available for others to comment upon.

So, to borrow from Oscar Wilde for a second time, make art for art's sake.  But that doesn't mean all art is useless.  If that "art" happens to be fun or therapeutic or helpful to someone in some way, then at least you've gotten something out of it, and maybe we'll admire it intensely as well.

Copyright 2008 Alexplorer.
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