“Making Special”

Ellen Dissanayake, an Independent Scholar living in Seattle, has an essay in the book Biopoetics that addresses “making special.” She sees making special as an “undescribed human universal and the core of a behavior of art.”

She argues that this is a characteristic that lends to making art evolutionary. No other species makes art for this reason. In other species, art is connected to attracting a mate or playing a game as a means to survival.  Ellen proposes that human production of art is often for these reasons and something more, something special.

She writes that, “the messages that are reinforced by the arts, and the tendency to reinforce or make special these messages, promotes community and one-heartedness, and this gives them additional human selective value.”

I read her sentence with interest in self. Writing is my chosen art. Community and one-heartedness can be an outcome of my writing art, but is it the reason I do it? I see the act of writing as solitary and done so out of wanting to express something new and being different. Neither a promotion of community or one-heartedness.

Therefore at first, what she wrote flew in the face of my own reasons to create art. I silently argued against. To be a part of the evolutionary she speaks, doesn’t the message of the art need to be as much a part of the artist as the audience? Otherwise I argue it would not be part of an evolutionary process.

Then I thought of something. I want to belong to a certain organization because I believe its community would add to my writing. Having trust from its membership to covenant with me would allow me a free and equal engagement of their minds.

To intentionally want to be part of something goes contrary to my normal modus operandi. It is revolutionary and maybe, just maybe, evolutionary. It is a part of “making special.”


6 thoughts on ““Making Special”

  1. New Hampshire Garden Solutions May 2, 2014 / 8:02 pm

    I’ve always been a bit of a loner so community isn’t a real big draw for me. I find artwork relaxing and a good way to get outside of yourself. A meditation you could say, but it’s a little different with writing.

    • fictionfitz May 3, 2014 / 7:52 am

      I used to think I liked it, but as I have written in my column, invite me to your party, it is my favorite part, and then I can say no, and be happy.

  2. Carole Webber May 3, 2014 / 9:49 am

    Don’t you think involvement in community may be a necessary input to feed your writing ?
    The actual act of writing may be solitary but I think you need us , Bob, for inspiration and ideas.

    • fictionfitz May 3, 2014 / 9:58 am

      I agree, but was thinking of art as it aided evolution. This is the argument, that arts are a part of OUR evolutionary process. I don’t see that as it applies to community affecting the artist, but rather as how art from the artist affects the community. Next time we meet, please bring your son-in-laws book. I want to see if it addresses Biopoetics. If so, now I am a listener. I have evolved.

  3. jhvn May 5, 2014 / 9:49 am

    It looks like you’re answering the question you put to a response I made your post about the Garden of Eden story — what does it mean to be human? I agree that art has an evolutionary purpose in making humans “more human”. I also agree that being part of communities that share and support our art and other endeavors advance human evolution. Art and community work together. What other activities move us humans to be “the universe becoming conscious of itself” as Teilhard de Chardin suggested?

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