Life is filled to the brim with creativity. An innumerable number of things are created on a daily basis; these are creations. People are creators. I am of the belief that these three things — creativity, creations and creators — are a fact of human existence. People create simply because they are people; this is a natural inclination that I believe we all experience, although the ways in which we people express creativity are enormously varied.
Enjoying the many different products of human creativity is one of my favorite aspects of being alive. I love to read books, listen to stories or music and see others’ art, for example. I think most people feel the same: we like it when people make things. Creativity adds a richness and depth to daily life that is beyond invaluable, to the extent that many would die in the name of creation, creative expression, freedom to create or whatever else you would like to call it.
In our modern time, we have more access to creators than perhaps ever before. For example, although I do not think it is likely, I could tag Rihanna in a tweet and she could reply. Increased digital connection has closed the gap between celebrities and fans, between creators and the audience.
This proximity to creators certainly has its upsides; if Rihanna did actually reply to one of my tweets, I would feel that my life had become significantly more interesting. Of course, there are also downsides, as the expectation of digital access to celebrities and others more broadly has allowed for the invasion of one’s private life, and there is a sort of social pressure that arises from the possibility of communication.
Thus we have come to a point in society where it is quite common to discuss creations and their creators as though the two are synonymous. There has long been discourse regarding the possibility of separating the art from the artist. For the sake of avoiding difficult questions regarding the nature or definition of art, I will use the terms creations and creators. That aside, I offer my insight into the matter: the two are absolutely and fundamentally separate, although knowledge of one can certainly inform one’s understanding of the other.
Creation is a noun; creations are things that each one of us can experience, analyze and interpret however we please. Although some interpretations will not hold up to critical analysis, at least as far as they fail to be coherent to the actual creative work in question, they are nonetheless reflections of an individual’s subjective experiences and therefore cannot be reduced to concepts of truth or falsity, nor to the objective characteristics of the work itself.
Creators, on the other hand, are people. I will not try to provide an account of what human nature is; that is something we may seem to understand intuitively yet cannot definitively define. I could not pretend to understand people in general, nor could I explain why people do the things they do.
Even more elusive is the connection between the ideas in the mind of a creator and their creations. I write poetry and often feel as though I do not know where my words come from, what exactly they mean or how I came to select those words in particular; I just chalk it up to the fickle muse of inspiration and move on with my life. The ambiguity of this connection is one reason I find it senseless to view creations as inseparable from their creators.
It is common to go on social media and discover that some musician, actor or whoever else has been “cancelled,” and this leads to the social pressure for that person’s fans to recant, abandon the artist and stop enjoying their work. A huge problem with this mentality is that knowledge of someone’s moral shortcomings does not magically erase the sensory pleasure one derives from their work. If I like a song, and then I find out that the artist is a horrid person, I still like the song. I would be lying to myself to say otherwise.
Whether or not individuals are morally at fault if they continue to support the creator in question financially, through streaming their music and thus allowing them to profit off of the royalties for example, is a separate question. All I am saying is that when I am appreciating something a person has created, I do not think about the person who created it, their moral status, their responsibility as a human to not treat other humans terribly, or anything else not related to the creation — I simply experience.
As far as I am concerned, I can coherently say that feminist literature pairs well with misogynistic rap. I do not think this is a contradiction or indicative of cognitive dissonance on my part, but rather that people are complex beings who can simultaneously enjoy multiple things. Music is made up of sounds, and some combinations of sounds just are pleasing to me. Reading a book involves interacting with language and the ideas it conveys. I can let my ears receive auditory stimulation I find pleasurable while my mind chews on ideas that are entirely contradictory to the song’s lyrics, since my mind is too busy reading to consider their content.
Similarly, I can enjoy the sensory stimulus I derive from a creative work and still genuinely hold the belief that the one who created it is a rotten stain on the fabric of society. The idea that enjoying things means endorsing the moral conduct of the person who created them is asinine, insofar as individuals have no power over the immediate visceral reaction they have to the creation.
The greater debate underlying my argument is far more broad and complex than what I have covered here. We might ask ourselves whether we, as consumers of creative content, have the power to reclaim works made under the guidance of morally vapid values by means of interpretation and analysis, ignoring whatever harmful thing it was that the creator intended to convey and disperse through their chosen creative medium. One might argue that once a creator invites the public to scrutinize their creation, they no longer hold authority over its meaning.
One might also argue that, at least for certain creative works, there is no sense in interpretation or analysis at all; a song is just a collection of sounds, a book is just a long string of words and so on. Although I do believe that there is great value in the interpretation of creative works insofar as they provide us an additional channel for communication, can manipulate our emotions, act as stimuli for the production of further creative works and add a unique depth and richness to life and its supposed meaning, I also believe that the aforementioned argument holds water. Despite how thinking deeply about creative works can lend a sense of significance to human existence and bring us happiness or purpose, they are ultimately just assortments of their constituent elements.
This is not to say that being made of reflectively arbitrary letters, sound waves and so on undermines the significance of creativity — I believe that wherever we can find joy, we should do so. I only mean to suggest that the simple act of experiencing that joy as a response to a creation does not say anything at all about how one feels about its creator.