Robert Gould’s seminar

Among the many points Robert Gould brought up in his seminar yesterday was the importance of stories and storytelling as a prime facet of the human experience. Although he discussed visual arts in many forms, in discussing artists he was most interested in a distinction between what he termed ‘creatives’ and people who are merely technically proficient at using artistic tools. Creatives have a strong underlying philosophy or belief about what they create, they can answer questions such as “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is unique about me?” and “Is there something unseen which is greater than me?” Non-creatives, on the other hand, deal with surfaces—there is no depth. The singular passion and vision of a creative is what is significant, what makes an artist capable of expanding the world view of humanity.

Gould’s remarks represent humanism at its finest. I’m sure most people in the humanities would agree with his comments on some level; storytelling is visible in history, in sociology, in religious belief, as a foundation for political systems, as a basis for education, etc. I’m reminded of a postgraduate commencement ceremony I attended a few years ago. Each faculty dean addressed the students who received their doctorates on that occasion. The dean of the medical school talked about the risky job market and difficult working situations, the dean of the natural sciences school discussed the importance of continued research and outside financing. In contrast, the dean of the humanities faculty congratulated the students because their work generated human truths.

Or, if you prefer a non-academic’s view of the matter, I can note that Gould’s advice to any aspiring artist echoed
Henry Rollins’ famous mantra to his fans. “Read books.”