By Wes Annac, Openhearted Rebellion
There are things we humans require to be happy – things that keep life interesting and help us get through the bad stuff. Art is one of those things; without some way to express themselves, most humans would be miserable. Even those who don’t make art usually consume it.
We need art, in whatever form it takes for each of us. I prefer writing articles and playing video games over playing the guitar – a hobby I used to enjoy that just stopped aweing me somewhere along the way. I may not play anymore, but I still love music. In the same vein, I don’t participate in making video games (thank God), but I sure love playing them.
Art is one of many outlets which keep us alive, in a more meaningful sense than simple survival. Lately, however, I’m realizing that art is not the only thing I need.
I used to have a simple-minded grasp of what it means to be human. As an idealistic (and naïve) 20-year-old, I thought my sole purpose was to make art. I should be making music, writing blogs, or finding some unique way to express myself. If I can do that every day while managing to make time for my family, then I’ve lived up to my ‘purpose’ satisfactorily. If the dishes don’t get done, then well, at least I wrote something or picked up the guitar.
Nowadays, I see that making art is only one piece of the puzzle for me to live a happy, well-rounded life. It is a necessity, but it is not the only necessity. I also need to do difficult things I would normally resist and make time for mundane stuff like chores or seeing my family (that last one is a joke).
Before I continue, I must apologize for the fact that I’m about to compare video games to rock and roll music from the 60s. I’m aware these are two completely different things, but they share some commonalities.
In many significant ways, video games have become an art form we should not dismiss. Most people still have a long way to go in accepting them, in the same way people struggled to accept the more creative forms of music from the 60s and 70s. They are both considered frivolous despite the fact they have given so many people a reason to keep living. Like music, games have opened minds and inspired creativity. Though there are generational differences between consumers of these different arts, they have more in common than you might think.
People used to say hippies should put down the guitar and get a job. Now, people say gamers should put down the controller and go live in the real world. Both have brought joy and color to the lives of people who would otherwise be left with the harsh realities of life, which, experienced without art to make our existence palatable, are bleak. Yet they are both dismissed.
Now, here’s where I’ll lose everyone if I haven’t already. The other thing these mediums share is that some people have thrown their lives away to pursue them. The fact that games and music are unfairly criticized for being ‘wastes of time’ and that they can genuinely cause you to waste your life – both things can be true.
The reason? We need art, but we need balance, too.
There is a reason the archetype exists of the hippie burnout who’s done too many drugs or blindly pursued music at the expense of their wellbeing. Likewise, there is a reason the archetype exists of the gamer who does the bare minimum just so they can get back to their game, as if that’s all they care about. We’re wrong to dismiss either medium, but the truth about whether they can waste our precious time on this planet lies somewhere in the middle.
I could’ve woken up this morning and went straight to God of War instead of writing this article. I wanted to, because it’s a gorgeous game, I have a lot of time invested in it, and I want to see what happens in the story. It inspires me in no small way.
Likewise, I could sit here and write all day instead of working out or spending time with my family. I could write all day, every day, as the dishes pile up and my family looks back nostalgically to a time when I wasn’t glued to my computer. Instead, I’ve started my day with writing; next will be a workout; then after my work shift, I’ll spend time with my loved ones and do my chores before writing more and then maybe gaming for a couple hours. It is all about balance.
If you remove art from the equation, the archetype still exists of the individual who works all day and night at the expense of everything else. They might have a lot of money and a big house, but their kids never really get to know them, and their partner is perpetually lonely. No matter what drives us – art, games, material success, or all of them – we must pursue it with balance, or we will burn out. Life will suck. It already sucks in many ways; why would we want to make the suckiness worse with an obsessive focus on things meant to make it a little better?
I’m happiest when I’m writing, exercising, gaming and spending time with my wife and kid in a clean house. Life is too short for me to put all my eggs in any of those baskets, with the only exception being family time. By all means, enjoy making your art, pursuing success in your career or playing any one of the incredible video games we are blessed with in this modern age. Just don’t become so obsessively focused that you let other things in your life suffer.
That is one surefire way to waste the already limited time we are given here.
Featured image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay