Art: a means to regain the laughter of infancy
I am trying to comprehend why humans do the things we do and can we do a better job of creating a better culture. I have been reading various sources that indicate that art and artists can be an important element in comprehending these matters.
Civilization has become an uncritical style of life that sacrifices the free energies of the citizen to a self-absorbed and largely fictional pattern of social meaning. Free energies can lead us back to the laughter of play provided we gain a comprehension of the possibility inherent in art.
In his book “Wit and the Unconscious” Freud affirms a “connection between art and the pleasure-principle, but the pursuit, through art, of pleasure incompatible with the reality-principle is not despised but glorified.”
Freud recognizes an important connection between art and the pleasure-principle—art makes fun with the reality-principle—art is wit in humor’s clothing—wit recovers our childish behavior and places that playfulness into a form that the reality-principle will accept—the purpose of art is to “regain the lost laughter of infancy”.
When the psyche is not organized for acquiring our essential needs and instinctual demands for mere survival we can let that psyche work for our pleasure just from the mere fact that humans find pleasure in pure passionate activity. Art knows how to rediscover our childishness, our need for play, and our need for disinterested activity pursued merely for the pleasure such activity might bring.
We strive, through play, to reach the euphoria that Carl Sagan express when he said “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy”.
Freud uses the metaphor “art is wit”; we use wit as a means to find our way back to the pleasure-principle that has been hidden from us by our grinding capitulation to the reality-principle, which we have made education to be. We seek through art to regain “the laughter of infancy”.
What do you artists have to say about this matter?
Quotes from “Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History” by Norman O. Brown.