Should We Obey the Laws of Nature?
A short note before we start. This heavy chapter lays out some basic groundwork for the ideas expressed in the book. However, it can be read later just as well. Regarding the chapter, sometimes I use the terms culture and arts interchangeably. This happens because arts are the most typical representative of culture, and I use art to explore culture itself. On the other hand, whatever we can say about culture in general, naturally applies to the arts.
Now, on with our subject. The idea of copyright, related laws, practices, and institutions are all different aspects of a certain attempt to govern culture. It has been an ongoing attempt for about three hundred years. My question is thus: Has it been a success? Or let us put it another way: Has it been a proper governance? The issue is very hot nowadays, and the right answer is vital, but how can we judge? I insist that the only proper answer is one that is based on culture itself. What do I mean?
Ancient Romans said, Natura parendo vincitur, that is, “Obeying nature, one wins.” In other words, we get the best fruits of nature if we obey its laws and vice versa. Nothing but harm comes from trying to impose our wishes on nature against its laws. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
I want to ask then, what about culture? Should we try to obey its inner laws or, say, “the laws of the nature” of culture while attempting to govern it? Or can we take laws derived from other areas and apply them to culture? Witnessing what is going on today, any reasonable person would doubt this, willing or unwilling.
Now, let us have a close look at the subject.
Work of Art Equals New World
What is the nature of culture? Let us narrow the question to what is the nature of arts? And let us start with a thing we can point our finger at―a work of art. What is it?
Let us take an example, say, The Lord of the Rings. What happens when we read it? At least two things. Firstly, we accept another world, one built by J. R. R. Tolkien as if it is ours in a way. We identify ourselves with the heroes; we love and hate; we get scared, triumphant, sad, happy, impatient, avenged, and all other possible feelings. It is as if it is us living and acting there―whatever happens there, we take it close to our hearts. Again, their world becomes, in a sense, ours. Secondly, it is a different and strange world. That is why it is interesting to us.
And so, here we can sum up the first definition for a work of art: it is the paradox of a new, strange world accepted as our own―an alter ego of our world.
This alter ego, in a sense, is less real and, in another sense, is more real than the physical world. It is less real because it is virtual. You can get in and out at any time, at will. However, it becomes more real when it affects you, draws stronger feelings, and influences your decisions in a greater degree than the physical world does.
One could say that the definition was deduced from just one specific example, one in the genre of fantasy. What about other genres?
It is all the same. Let’s take an example that is really close to physical reality―a newspaper article. Try extracting a list of plain facts from the article and compare it with the article itself. Which one would be more real in terms of influencing the reader? The list or the article? Which one is more likely to get noticed? Which one is more likely to get real attention, understanding, and empathy? The answer seems to be obvious; it will be the article or, in other words, the list as processed by the journalist thus presenting a conditioned world, a more visible and understandable one, more real in this sense. How was this reality achieved? The journalist has turned the physical reality into “more ours” (so it became touching) and, at the same time, “more strange” (so it became interesting).
Once again, in a piece of art (whatever it is: painting, novel, poetry, song, sculpture, drama, dance, etc.) the artist creates a new world, a strange and real one. However, this new world is not the only phenomenon created by its author. Necessarily, other new things surface like the following:
- New forms of expression
- New elements of human language
- New human attitudes
- New understanding of human dignity―generally speaking, a new layer of humanity.
At the same time, the artist recreates his own alter ego (one that understands all of the above listed). Furthermore, he creates a new audience (the people who will understand all these new things).
To sum it up, every artwork creates a new layer of humanity consisting of a new world (less and more real than the physical one), a new author (capable of creating that world), and a new audience (capable of understanding, believing in, accepting, and enjoying all of the novelty) with all their new forms of behavior, thinking, and speaking.
Work of Art Equals a Message
And so, a piece of art addresses an audience, which, in turn, is supposed to understand it. This means that the piece of art bears another duty and, hence, another definition: it is a message to be heard, understood, and responded to,.. which means, furthermore, that a true artwork appears when the artist has something to say. Obviously, this is about something that touches the author personally. One could remind me that art-for-order or even art-for-hire does exist. Yes, it does, but that changes nothing. The artist’s talent is to understand and empathize with what other people could and should really feel. Otherwise, the outcome will not amount to real art.
So, a work of art is a message. Now what happens on the audience’s side? It is fact that we love, hate, feel compassion toward, and are afraid of the heroes of a work. As we said already, that new world is a real one. It is unique; it is unusual; it is specific; it is virtual; and it is real. We engage in this reality if we allow ourselves, that is. And for those who don’t, art simply doesn’t exist. Despite the fact that you are free to engage and disengage with the world represented in a piece of art, when you are engaged, everything happening with its heroes touches you. In short, we develop real human-to-human relations with the heroes of the virtual worlds. The only difference here is the consequences. Remember how we have to sometimes convince ourselves that it is not real when a movie becomes too chilling? Remember your tears when you listen to music sometimes? Remember the deep feelings, the tempests of thoughts while reading? These are all very human feelings, aren’t they? And these feelings are directed at and are invoked by those images of people shaped by the artist, writer, singer, or composer.
Interestingly enough, the same thing happens when it comes to real people and events we are not involved with directly. Often they become truly real if they are “processed” by art. We discussed already that information in a newspaper may pass unnoticed by the public. It is the art of journalism to make a real event truly real to us, to make something captivating out of a factual event so that the audience notices and accepts it as an important one, gets engaged in human-to-human relations with the characters of the article.
Personal Versus Consumer Attitude
Having said this, we can understand another dimension of individual relations with a work of art. Let’s turn to our example again. Say, one day you discovered The Lord of the Rings. You may have borrowed it from a friend or taken from a library, read it and decided that you want this book on your shelf so that you can read and reread it and talk to its heroes and listen to them and enjoy their adventures and be afraid of their dangers and discover new countless details, possibilities, beauties, and challenges of that other world time and time again. Then you went to a bookstore and did not find it. Would you say to yourself something like “Well, there is no The Lord of the Rings here, so I can buy something else.”
Albeit the above attitude is possible, this wouldn’t be normal here. If you want The Lord of the Rings, then you want The Lord of the Rings. It is personal by nature! It is not the same when you are going to buy a car. In the latter case, you need something to drive. Even if you want a very certain car, it can be substituted. The Lord of the Rings cannot. Another book will never be the same to you. In the exact way that some person will never be the same to you as a loved one.
I consider the last point to be extremely important. Let’s deliberate a few more examples. One can say something like:
- I need something to eat.
- I need something to drive.
- I’d like something to read.
- I want to marry.
- I need to talk to somebody.
You can also say something like:
- I want rack of lamb, Irish style.
- I want a blue Cadillac.
- I need The Lord of the Rings.
- I love Miriam and want to marry her.
- I miss Tom and want to talk to him.
What is the difference between the two groups? The first one contains indifferent, or better to say, impersonal statements which represent, generally speaking, the “consumer attitude.” The second one consists of personal statements, which represent a humane, passionate attitude.
Let’s pay close attention to the first one. The “consumer attitude” in some of these statements should be taken with a grain of salt. Even when you just want to marry, you normally foresee individual human-to-human relations, so even though this wish is expressed in general terms, it is not necessarily a consumer one. The same story happens with your wish to talk to somebody. This normally implies that someone able to listen to you, understand, probably help in some personal, caring manner. Further, if you want to read something, normally you anticipate human-to-humanlike relations with a book heroes, and this is exactly what attracts you.
Now, the personal statements in the second group also go cum grano salis. When you say “I want to drive a blue Cadillac,” it is personalization of a functional thing, which has no soul. Human-to-humanlike relationship with a car is not in the nature of the car. Nothing in it is supposed to derive love or hatred or any other purely human feeling. It is only functional, powerful, comfortable, and so forth.
To sum it up, a human can develop a personal attitude toward anything and may treat other human beings like consumer goods (an extreme case, for instance, is slavery). The question is what is natural here? When you wanted to read The Lord of the Rings,it was personal by nature, like if you wanted to meet another person. And this is not an irrelevant or surprising analogy at all.
If a work of art is another real world with its own heroes, events, and laws, and if this other world talks to your soul, then you cannot treat it like food to consume or even a tool to use. It is different in principle, in nature. You do feel a kind of personal engagement, much like one with other people. This human-to-human face of an artwork makes it exceptionally important for us as human beings, individuals, and as a society as well.
Form in a Work of Art
All right, once again a piece of art is a message. It goes from the author to the audience, and it is about true feelings, ideas, and inventions important to him. How is this message built? We know already; the message paradoxically presents a new virtual world, which is strange (and therefore interesting) and, at the same time, is ours, understandable, and touching (and thus important).
What makes a piece of art a projection of a new world? The work consists of ideas which are organized and expressed in some aesthetic form. Obviously, if we have the ideas simply listed (remember a newspaper article!), they would attract only philosophers and would not necessarily invoke any feelings. On the other hand, I am sure that everybody can recall many examples of artworks which they found deeply involving while those works bear almost no ideas or bear ideas that are insignificant or maybe important but not for us. For example, I adore the musical Chicago but can barely list any ideas in it. So, how does art purify and signify matters for us?
We can assume that the aesthetic form plays the major and the essential role here. It is the form that organizes different details into related ones, tied to each other in virtual space-time. It is the form that comprises something whole, something total, that exact kind of reality which is the new world built in and by a work of art. Again, it is the aesthetic form that brings reality into the new world created, and it is the form that makes it touching and interesting. It is through form that ideas emerge and speak to us.
Now let us recall that an intrinsic feeling of the author must stand in the center of the imagined world and dictate its aesthetic form.
Rules for Creator
And so, the feeling dictates, thus the author obeys although this may sound strange. Here are some general thoughts before we proceed. We have learned a few things about a work of art, but is art something entirely comprised of works? Or is there such a thing as “art itself?”
The first answer is easy: yes and no. Why yes? When we say “sculpture,” this implies a general notion, which in turn makes a work of art be a sculpture in our eyes. More importantly, it makes it one in the eyes of its creator. Most importantly, it was a sculpture in the creator’s mind before it was created. How about some other phenomena reflected in such diverse general terms as baroque, comedy, Antiquity*, etc.? There appear to be some kind of general patterns working beyond artworks, and thus, we can definitely say that “art” in itself does exist.
Why “no?” It is so because these patterns do exist and develop in only works of art. While talking about art, we have no substance to look and point at other than works of art. Art does not exist beyond works of art. Art in itself is a paradox, and this paradox is the exact reason art develops by its own laws.
Let us make the ideas behind the “yes” more concrete. The patterns mentioned above translate into some more or less articulated rules that an artist has to obey. This, by the way, returns us to another question: whether or not there are laws of culture to obey in order to make it work its best. Yes, there are laws. They are implemented in works of art, and they are developed in works of art.
An artist obeys and develops at least three sets of rules.
The first set of rules is concerned with the laws of categories of art (meaning genres, mediums, etc.). Obeying these laws is one of the conditions required to construct a work of art into its perfect form. Let’s take look at movies based on books. Simply rewriting a book as a script cannot work because things that have to be said in a book can simply be shown in a movie. Inversely, things that can be explained in a book can’t be shown in a movie. In this respect, some movies based on the Bible are not convincing at all for that exact reason. The Passion of the Christ can serve as a counter example because Mel Gibson adhered to the laws of his medium.
The second set of rules to obey is concerned with canon. From ancient Greek tragedy and sculpture to medieval poetry to classical music and so on, arts have always been developed through a cycle: invention of a canon, development within the canon, offshoot of a new canon. You either learn an existing means of expression, which was invented by someone else, or invent new means yourself. But you still have to follow some rules so that your creation will fit into a cultural context. This makes your work readable, visible, understandable, recognizable, and so forth.
The third set is the most mysterious. It is concerned with the “dictatorship” of the author’s own work. In other words, this set represents that unique world that is implied in every single work of art. No matter what it is ―a novel, a short story, a song, a play, a painting, a poem, etc., it is a whole new different world. To reiterate from before, it is new and it is real. And it becomes real when all its elements play together without a single false note. In short, the new world is real if it is shaped in a perfect form as I have said before.
We can always hear a false note when it is played; we can always see when a painter makes the wrong stroke; in general, we can feel when an author breaks the rules of the world he has created. That is, we can always feel when an aesthetic form is broken, when its perfection is undermined. I always remember a very compelling example―Clive Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. It happened when, I think, Lewis started to worry that his message of Christian love was not clear, so he turned to direct preaching. In my view, he destroyed that beautiful world he created; he had ripped its form for the sake of religion and morality. What should Lewis have done to keep Narnia alive? He should have followed her rules. He shouldn’t have directly preached but kept Narnia’s form as perfect as it was.
This may seem contrary to the idea that an author’s feeling dictates the form, but it’s not. That means that the form must represent the author’s feeling. It follows then that the virtual world should be free to dictate its rules. The more talented an author is, the better he is able to follow the rules of the world of his creation. We can even put it this way: the more talented an author is, the more independently acts his creation. If we agree that an imagined world is, in a sense, a living one then we see it as independent―independently acting, independently developing.
The main rule for a creator is paradoxical and is thus: be free to follow your creation!
Creating as Dialogue
All right, a talented author allows his creation to live according to its own laws. Now, let’s recall that a piece of art is a message. Thus, the talent of a creator consists of allowing his creation to speak for itself. This illustrates and stresses another side of the real logic and psychology of the creative process.
The author relates a message when creating. That means the author is talking to somebody while creating. From the outside, it might seem like the author is talking to himself. But what is happening on the inside? The same thing that happens to all of us while we are thinking―we talk to someone else in our mind, in our inner speech. This can be one’s father or mother or Teacher or friend or loved one or enemy or a hero of a book, etc. Of course, those interlocutors may be more or less unrecognized, so we don’t quite clearly realize who we are talking to, but this is on the matter of psychology and is not crucial for our subject. (Normally, an adult is under the impression that he is talking to himself.) What is crucial for our subject is that an author is conversing with his potential audience and other authors.
Obviously, an artwork itself means nothing until somebody sees it, listens to it, etc. A work of art represents culture at the moment that it emerges as the subject of inner or outer dialogue. Remove dialogue, and art becomes a piece of canvas, some ink, a tape, etc.
Interestingly, if we remove art―and thus novelty―from dialogue, it turns into banal, senseless, animal-like communication.
When do you talk? When you want to be heard, understood, and responded to. You write (film, sing, etc.) to be read (watched, listened to, etc.), understood, and responded to. And while outside a new creation invokes new understanding in other people, the same amazing thing happens inside in the creator’s inner dialogue: all of the author’s inner interlocutors develop an understanding of the new creation. The author talks to his inner interlocutors about this new world. That actually means he develops his own new understanding, his new alter ego, or more precisely, a new face of the alter ego with every single work.
Free human communication or dialogue is the most general mechanism in the development of the arts and all creativity, generally speaking.
Art is a dialogue (yet another definition). Its very fabric is produced at that very moment when a writer is writing (that is, he is talking in his mind), when a reader is reading (is talking in his mind to the author, friends, enemies, etc.), when a person is thinking (is talking in his mind to his alter ego), etc. All of it can occur in the realm of ultimate freedom and only there. Let us always remember that.
Freedom of inner speech is one of the main conditions required for and, at the same time, the motivation to create. It is another law of the nature of culture! Even if an author creates for some superficial reasons like money, fame, or fear of punishment, these affect him on the surface only. No outer reasons add talent to a work of art. Free inner speech (dialogue) does. Again, the freedom of the author’s inner speech is crucial for the creative process. A creator is as talented as he is free.
Culture: Sum of Works and Beyond
We already touched upon the question of whether or not there is an “art” as such that is art beyond works of art. Let’s explore some more phenomena. We assumed there must paradoxically exist some generic thought patterns, some ideas representing art. They work as engines, producing thoughts, new ideas and forms of their expression, people’s interest in and understanding of all those new elements of humanity, and even new human behavior.
How does it happen? Any and all ideas become most refined and developed when they are fixed into a form, a work. After that, they may play an “instructive” role, either by staging examples to follow or even by being taught. But the most important role of a work of culture is not to be an example to follow or learn. It is to provoke another creator to create. It could provoke and invoke a desire to understand or to follow, to go further, to argue, to criticize, generally speaking, to induce another dialogue. All this relates to the audience as well.
Let us take, for example, the so-called “culture of groups.” Whatever their art forms are and on whatever level, it is important to stress that these forms have been and are being created. After the creation happens, the “added culture” spreads into the vernacular, gets fixed in the written language, rituals, clothes, meals, and so forth and, sooner or later, fires back―new works of art appear. These new works reflect the new stage of the group and promote new forms of life. Novelty is a characteristic of culture, and because of that, culture is exclusively the human way of life.
Once again, culture is born of works of art, gives birth to works of art but is not the same as the sum of those works. Even if we add ideas, names, literary personages, genres, theories, methods, schemes, etc. this will not add up to the entirety of culture. It is so simply because many different works may represent the same culture. For example, the works of Aristotle and Plato belong to the culture of Antiquity. But what is the culture of Antiquity? It is one represented by works of Plato, Aristotle, and many others. How can such different works represent the same thing? Culture appears to be an engine producing works, which, in turn, develop the culture. We revolve within this and other paradoxes of human ways all the time. We can neither avoid it nor change it.
The paradox between culture and its works is analogous to the paradox between thought and speech. Thought and speech are not one and the same, because you may express the same thought in different ways. On the other hand, there is not a thought beyond speech; you have no means to comprehend the thought without verbalizing it. Both halves of this paradox have been brilliantly grasped by Russian poets.
I have forgotten the word, that I desired to say
And a fleshless thought returns to Shadow Palace
The thought that has been said, is false.
Culture and Humanity
We concluded in the very beginning that every work of real art actually creates a new layer of humanity. Let us list a few points, which have been developed thus far and some of the obvious offshoots thereof:
- If a work of art represents a new world and this new world speaks to us, then it invokes new feelings, new language to express ourselves, new views on our relations to one another, etc. Thus, an artwork creates new layers of the human way of life; in other words, new insights on humanity itself. This was said in the very beginning.
- Particularly important is that the relations of people to art are essentially the same as the relations of people to one another. Since the arts are developing these relationships, they bring the new human ways of life to society.
- In doing so, the arts disseminate ideas, which are exclusively human to desire, to value, to be interested in, to hate, to like, to fight, to encourage, to ameliorate, and so forth.
- Beyond that, the arts bring in ideas in an exclusively human way via aesthetic form thus developing the human ability to perceive.
- Remember, the virtual world of an artwork must be recognizably ours and intriguingly strange in order to work. Thus, the very ways a work of art influences us comprise some fundamental features of human nature―curiosity, empathy, and reflection.
- A work of art directly enriches personalities of its author and its audience because it develops new faces of their alter egos. These faces are able to understand that new work, its language, its new aesthetics, and new interpretations of human-to-human and human-to-universe relations.
- Arts develop the spectrum of the simplest human senses via the development of new genres and kinds of art.
- Particularly, arts develop further and deeper basic sensations of space, time, and movement.
- Arts develop the sense of historical time and universal space, which translates into the sense of total unity of humankind throughout time and space, particularly beyond national boundaries.
- It is the arts which develop the basic of all basics of the human way of life―dialogue or free communication.
- It is within the arts that people develop, employ, and revel in their most powerful and fundamental abilities―creativity and freedom.
If we go farther back in time to when there was virtually no art, we will find that no human way of life had yet been developed. Arts create humanity, amount to it, and vice versa―no humanity emerges beyond the arts. It is important to stress that humanity is measured here in all possible dimensions: ethics, aesthetics, feelings, thoughts―everything that makes a human being specifically human.
The Reality of Art and Civilization
And so, we can see that if it were not for the arts, no civilization would ever exist. We concluded that virtual worlds of art are more real in certain respects than the physical world. Virtual worlds and the physical world do interact and influence each other. Real tensions of the physical world provoke creators to reflect them in imagined worlds. These are imaginable in new ways every time they meet an audience. This is how creations bring about perceptions and understandings of new ways of human life and thus cause changes to societies. It is up to civilization to accept or to deny what culture brings in. Both scenarios have occurred throughout history.
Mostly, they fight each other. Culture questions civilization. Civilization, in turn, denies what culture brings in, fights creations in different ways for different reasons, punishes and stages obstacles for creators, disseminators of art, and the audience. The very first thought that would come to mind when we think of such fights is about censorship. This normally leads to the idea of a tyranny or dictatorship. However, the same can be said about copyrights and other culture-restricting laws, perceptions, and practices. Granted, there are differences in motivation between censorship promoters and copyright promoters, but there are hardly any differences in results. Moreover, some cultural phenomena fall under more than one kind of restriction. For instance, the sometime ban on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn―this lovely book had the bad luck of falling under two kinds of restrictions: copyright and censorship.
Some of these restrictions are lifted when society is ready to accept the cultural phenomenon. For some, that time never comes. At any rate, it is impossible to imagine and measure all the harm done by civilization to culture and, consequentially, to civilization itself due to all the mentioned and unmentioned restrictions.
Culture and Creativity
After all that has been said, it is obvious that culture and creativity are inseparable. Surprisingly, beyond this book, the interrelations between culture and creativity are not that clear. This can be seen by looking at many of dictionary definitions of culture, such as these taken from the One Look dictionary (www.onelook.com), which, in turn, takes entries from a great deal of other dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com), Cambridge International Dictionary of English (www.dictionary.cambridge.org), and others:
Quick definitions (Culture)
- noun: the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group
- noun: the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization (e.g., the developing drug culture)
- noun: a particular society at a particular time and place
- noun: all the knowledge and values shared by a society
- noun: a highly developed state of perfection; having a flawless or impeccable quality
All the above definitions of culture lack the most important Point―its development. Development is included in the very idea of culture as such and, thus, must be reflected in its definition. For example, “culture is the development of the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group” or “culture is the development of the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization” or “culture is the development of a particular society at a particular time and place,” and so forth. In other words, all of the above-stated definitions are related to the current subject at hand (the culture of mankind) in the sense that they have been born within culture and continue to give birth to other forms of culture. If we disregard the continuous process of the development of culture as part of its nature, all that will remain will be nothing more than complex forms of behavior. Culture and creativity are interrelated and interdependent; they are practically synonymous. Culture is the embodiment of novelty of human life in all possible dimensions. For example, we noted earlier that an author creates not only a work but also a new alter ego and a new audience. If novelty stops coming in, all the culture developed thus far will immediately turn into forms of behavior only and, as I said, essentially would not differ from some complicated forms of animal life. Likewise, if thinking stops, speech loses sense and doesn’t differ from animal communication.
We can summarize all the above said in a paradoxical way (the only right way to do so): culture is creation of forms of culture.
One more important dimension in the culture-creativity tandem is worthy of recollection. It is author-to-audience relations. Remember, a single piece of art represents culture when it serves as a medium for dialogue, provoking an act of free human will when it is read, watched, listened to, empathized with, feared, thought of, discussed, etc. That means that culture presumes, encourages, promotes, develops, and depends on a creative audience.
Creator and Audience: Who Owes Whom?
We remember that a work of art is a message, which means that it is a form of communication. A work of art develops a new way of free human communication or dialogue and vice versa. Dialogue is a creative process. I believe many of us can recall countless times when ideas popped up in a friendly conversation or in an unfriendly quarrel absolutely unexpectedly, out of nothing. The question is who owes whom in that case? The same thing happens in inner dialogue, whether a person is arguing with himself or with another person in his mind. And the same question pertains to that case: who owes whom?
The fact that thinking is actually a dialogue is especially evident when an outer conversation transitions into an inner one. Two people may have a conversation or an argument and continue pondering the situation long after the conversation itself is over. They continue discussing and arguing with their absent opponents; however, if we look at them from our side, we can see that they are really talking to themselves. Who owes whom in this case?
This is what happens with a creator. His inner and outer interlocutors are always hidden coauthors in any work of art. Once more, who owes whom?
The author is as much a contributor as a recipient in the outer dialogue and in the inner one as well. In fact, the hidden interlocutor is representative of the audience in general. The author and the audience are on equal positions in the creation of the artwork. The more creative a work is, the more ideas of others it implements. Over and over―who owes whom? Each owes the other.
The audience is comprised of all the creative people―any time, any place―who are able to understand the author’s work. In reality, we have to talk about the entirety of mankind here. The author, while creating, talks to mankind and gets answered by mankind; he gives and receives. Mankind and the creator are on par. This is in the nature of creativity and, thus, in the nature of culture.
Creator and Culture: Who Owes Whom?
So mankind and the creator are on par. That means the creator and culture are on par, and this tells us something about both.
Richness of culture is not measured by the quantity of the works produced. First and foremost, it is measured by the different voices presented in works of culture. This is an obvious assertion now, coming from the fact that the most general developing mechanism of culture is dialogue. Interlocutors bearing different views have something to tell each other and, in doing so, develop their views. For example, it was crucial for the Antiquity to produce Plato and Aristotle, who are radically different in their approaches to philosophy. Because of this difference, they caused tremendous development of the antique culture. Naturally, it wouldn’t be nearly as beneficial to the development of culture if there were many Platos and no Aristotle.
On the other hand, if they are so tremendously different, what does it mean that their contributions belong to the same culture? We have encountered this paradox a few times already. We know that there are some ideas and thought patterns that are specific to a certain culture. We also know that these ideas are represented by works within this culture. However, we know that these ideas do not coincide with these works. In Antiquity, for example, we can point out one such mainstream idea or thought pattern, “What is true? That which is beautiful. What is beautiful? That which has perfect form.” This view of the truth led, for example, many philosophers in the fifth century B.C. to believe that the Earth is a sphere simply because the sphere was considered to be the most perfect form! Of course, this is one small example of an idea at work which propelled the antique authors and was developed by them. But…
We have to return to the first half of the paradox. And indeed, what does it mean that the idea “was developed”? That means two things: the author is representative of the his culture, and at the same time, he is different from his predecessors, peers, and followers. Mainstream ideas of a culture propel dialogue (creativity, humanity, and so forth) of authors, and thus, culture is developed in their dialogue. Therefore, a creator owes culture just as much as culture owes him.
Culture and Freedom
After all that has been said about it, what is culture now? We saw it defined in paradoxes when culture revealed its different faces. These faces are development of human ways of life or as ways of thinking, as dialogue, as a message, as creativity, as freedom. This last face is the one I want to concentrate on now.
Culture and freedom presuppose one another in all of their aspects. I mentioned already that an author must feel absolutely free to build his new world. This is true in the respect of ideas, emotions, art forms and techniques, genres, personages, events, chunks of other works of other authors, use of language, etc. A work of art represents a new world and, at the same time, is a form of dialogue. Therefore, it requires ultimate freedom in that same way as people require and are entitled to freedom of speech. Art represents some new ideas or new assembly of ideas or new form of expression of those ideas, which amounts to the seed of an entirely new virtual world. Art represents new dimensions in understanding of the human way of life, humanity itself, and let us add now, the new understanding of human freedom. Why?
A human being is innately a free one. Freedom is one of the definitions of humanity. It’s common knowledge that humans value freedom above all else. From history, we know about, feel compassion for, and understand people who sacrificed their property, health, and even lives for the sake of freedom.
People constantly try to reach beyond all boundaries of life, no matter how well they have been adapted to current circumstances. An essential aspect of human life is breaking out of adaptation, and we can usually blame culture for this “inconvenient feature.” A real work of art, that very cell from which the ever-growing organism of culture is built, always takes us from our world (to which we have adapted) to another new one (where we have to adapt ourselves from scratch). It demands us to be free to go, to be courageous to go, to stand up and go, and to reach new horizons. This is why all kinds of tyrants and tyrannies cannot come to terms with culture and therefore hate and fight it. A Nazi once said: “When I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning!” Creators and people of culture put themselves on the line all throughout history. Remember? People create regardless of reward or punishment! Likewise, people try to reach freedom regardless reward or punishment! Freedom and creativity bear their rewards and punishments in and of themselves despite outer circumstances. In this sense, culture, creativity, humanity, dialogue, freedom―they are all synonyms.
So, What Is the Law? Freedom!
This idea has been articulated, implied, hinted on, and developed throughout the pages of my diary. The fundamental law of nature of culture is freedom. Freedom is the only natural soil on which culture can grow and flourish and vice versa. A creator must be absolutely free to be inspired and to create. His creation must be absolutely free to circulate between, communicate with, and influence people. The audience must be absolutely free to access the creation.
Culture is the realm of ultimate freedom. This is the law of nature of human life.
Here, and throughout the book, I refer to “Antiquity” according Russian tradition, meaning the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations which developed approximately from the 8th century BCE to the 5th century CE.