What is Art?

Leo Tolstoy wrote a short book called What is Art? defining art as a cultural form of communication, which might only be judged by its appropriate audience. He opposed those who judged art by beauty. He emphasized that anything can be art: jokes, home decorations, flower arrangement, religious rituals, etc.

Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.

What I love most about this definition of art is that it implores us to appreciate many more moments on a deeper level. If most things are art, and art is indispensable to our well-being, then that means there’s interest all around us. That is, if only we were willing to appreciate more dad jokes, tedious rituals, hand-made tablecloths, dying floral arrangements, and homemade soundcloud rappers.

I always had an inkling that beauty was all around us, but What is Art? made me finally see it.

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