When he wrote The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman thought back to his seven-year-old self. He discovered something fascinating: The more time he spent remembering what it was like to be seven, the more he remembered about being seven. That’s what art does. It hits one level deeper – and not just when we create it.
My favorite OneRepublic song is Secrets. When I went to see them live, I knew the song was coming on next long before the slow, unrelated intro could give any confirmation of that being the case. I just had this feeling, deep in my gut. That, too, is what art does. It brings back what’s lost.
The mind stores a lot more than we can access. Art is the spark that lights the torches in the lowest levels of our emotional archives. Suddenly, the memories, thoughts, beliefs, and ideas come flooding back, all carried by a big wave of feelings.
The more time the artist has spent encoding their inner workings in their creation, the less likely it is to fly by only superficially, burning up like a shooting star before reaching our subconscious. If they did their job well – and did it for us, since art is subjective – their work will take us on a journey. It might be a trip back to our seven-year-old self, or a reminder of a relationship we lost, but it’ll always send us one level deeper, which, ironically, is the only way for us to find the light we were looking for all along.
Engage with art whenever you can. Bring back the torch of self-awareness. Return from the depths enlightened, and then show us the way.