Task 8 (week 10) Writers and artists in the 19th century were preoccupied with trying to solve the question “what is the purpose of life on Earth?“ As an inhabitant of the 21st century, how convincing did you find their answers?
Until the [wo]man realises that he must stop pursuing frivolous desires, he will be condemned to live in hell on earth. As long as [wo]man continues to participate in destroying the world while blindly contributing to his own demise, the humanity will fall only further down in the abyss. The fact of the matter is that the majority of the people are not only unconscious but also unwilling to become conscious: it’s so convenient to live in the comfort of ignorance. Looking at the problem at the root, isn’t it the responsibility of everyone to save himself from his state of ignorance? Hence, could this be the primary purpose of life? Whether or not we agree with this statement, the Romantics in their own way were going in this direction. Aristotle said that the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. Assuming that life itself is a process of art, the purpose of life would be not to repeat insipidly the same dramas always and again (since we are not meant to regress). Hence, the purpose of life is to evolve in an intelligent and meaningful way. In one of her poems, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861) diminishes the value of the Romantics’ vision, disputing the fact that the poets were spending all their creative energy loosely while revisiting the past instead of focusing on the problems of the contemporary life. The author, however, fails to recognise that a real change must —and can only– come from the “within” and not from the outside. The Romantics, on their side, were very conscious of this fundamental distinction. Also, problems only arise as [wo]men driven by their arrogance attempt to overrule the natural states in place. In other words, [wo]men are entangled in unresolvable issues that they have created for themselves. But rather than admitting their wrongs they prefer to look the other way, even imposing on the mind of others by manipulation or by force, simply not to admit their weaknesses. The real problem of contemporary life is [wo]man’s ego and the Romantics were well aware of this fact. Knowing that, I consider their endeavour as an elective act of consciousness. In our materialist societies, too many people believe that they can change things that are external to them. But, in fact, a human being has no such power. The only true power that [wo]man has is that to work on his inner-self. Humble as they were, that is what the Romantics were doing.
In the play, The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900) uses an interesting approach to criticise the prevalent attitude of the Victorian period. Throughout witty dialogues, he cleverly suggests how profoundly superficial and uninteresting the mainstream public of the Victorian period are. In fact, drama and Poetry can tell so much more of the reality of our lives than any scholar or critic can. That is because the language of art allows considering any given subject from a higher perspective. John Keats (1795 – 1821) himself dropped his instruments of science as he decided to dedicate himself to the arts, embracing the path of poetry. In his poem Ode on a Grecian Urn, he translates his subjective experience into a metaphysical statement. By doing that, he finds a way to reconcile contradicting ideas: impermanence with infinity; death with eternity. Also, in his work, William Blake (1757 – 1827) alludes to how the industrial enterprise represents a threat to our fellow humankind. However, he decides to explore primarily the world of imagination rather than wasting his time with boring human preoccupations. Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) in Line Written In Early Spring speaks of the sacred balance of life and man causing the disruption of this natural state of peace. And in his other poem Ode: Intimation of Immortality, rather mystical, the author gives us a glimpse of what could be the dreams that “stuff” is made of (and I insist that I do mean the dreams that stuff is made of, not the opposite!) Finally, John Glover’s (1767 – 1849) natural landscape Uliswater, Early Morning reaches to create awareness in the mind of the spectator. As we stare into the painting we grasp how precious beautiful nature is, and this should make ask ourselves “what have we done to nature”. Though I ask myself why is the humanity so corrupted as to destroy the very land he lives on?
In the end, all of these great artists allow us through their arts to grasp the key features of the society that we live in today. Their ideas deeply resonate with the truth of our present days. I pray only that the Romantics’ vision could have ever more echoes. But that vision prophecising the forthcoming of an industrial age that would eventually destroy all this divine creation now is a fact. It is the very fact of our reality. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do against the crazy people governing our world: they are such all-powerful. We could, however, deny their existence and start living consciously for ourselves. But even so, the common person is still hiding, blind and coward. Conversely, a revolution of blood would not help, as it would only create another dictatorship (we know that from history). Hence, the best we can do is still to focus on ourselves… inasmuch as this focus consists of breaking all the barriers that we have created for ourselves. Money and power nourish the ego, not the real self. We need to free ourselves from the ego. That is the purpose of life on Earth. And that is what the Romantics were doing as they were endlessly searching beauty and seeking the soul.
Tibby Aubry, 20th of May 2016 © http://adnspirit.com \ Literature; text registered at ACU.