Painting makes me happy, but sometimes I feel like a member of the orchestra playing while the Titanic sinks. The list of terrible problems our country and the world face is long; global warming and environmental destruction, the ascendance of belief over evidence and the rise of fundamentalist religions, the reversal of progress in terms of social justice, the over-privileging of corporations, and over-consumption are just a few.
As an artist, am I distracting people from what they SHOULD be paying attention to or providing meaning or comfort in the face of disaster? Global warming is now inevitable, and it will wreak havoc on human society and nature, destroying a lot. There ARE things we could be doing to mitigate the disaster. Should we all focus all our energies on that? Or is there a worthwhile place for artists?
Would the Titanic’s orchestra members’ time have been better spent towards rescue efforts? Maybe some of them would have survived. But the overall outcome would not have been much changed. And we remember them! We remember them as courageously doing what they loved in the face of death.