For the Sake of Art

Today we live in a rather materialistic-minded society where everything is counted and measured in terms of money. Living with such a mindset we are perhaps missing out on many vital things which can make our lives much more meaningful and enriching. Of course money is of prime importance to one and all. But are we as a people today too over-occupied with monetary considerations that we are missing out many vital ingredients of life which can make our lives much more meaningful, enriching and rewarding for ourselves and others as well? Yes, in our pursuit of money, are we failing to see the beauty and power of art? This is the issue I want to address in this article.  

Life itself is much more than money. As the old proverbial saying goes, “money was made for man and not man for money”. Dreaming to make money to stand on one’s own feet and support oneself and one’s family is not at all bad. Or for that matter even dreaming and aspiring to live as a rich man is also not at all unadvisable. Similarly choosing those professions that can earn us big money in return is also understandable.  

Yes, money certainly is a factor not to be neglected while planning or scheming for our lives and future. But life itself is multi-dimensional and there is much more to it than just money. A person may have natural inclination, interest and talent for an art like drawing and painting. And it may be so that in his society there are not much chances of making money through drawing and painting. Under such a situation the person may think about giving up this art-form since he sees that these activities are not going to generate money for him. So even though he may be extremely talented in these arts, he may start to think that involving in these activities would be just a waste of time, energy and resources. Now when a person who has passion and interest in a particular art and is wonderfully gifted in that field starts to think like that and gives up his passion and interest just because he does not see any money returning back to him for involving in his art, I consider it as ‘murder of art and imagination’.  

Money does count in almost everything we do. But we need to learn to do some things not just for money but for the sake of art and for the sake of life itself. If we are to give up doing the things which we love to do and for which we have the talent, we would certainly miss out on many things that life could have offered us. There are many kinds of arts that can make our lives much more meaningful, enriching and rewarding, so these arts need to be practiced, nurtured and promoted not for money as such but for the sake of art itself.  

The ultimate aim of man is to live a happy life. But the old proverbial saying goes, “money cannot buy us happiness”. Having money or being rich certainly gives us a sense of happiness, security and satisfaction. But one can be rich in money but very poor in heart. If one knows that he is good at something and if others also acknowledge that talent in him, one should not think about giving up that passion just because there is not much money in that. On the other hand, if he continues to pursue that passion for art, he can make a name for himself in that field and he may also end up enriching his own life and the lives of many others. And certainly he would be able to leave behind a worthwhile legacy even though he may not die a rich man.  

For instance, let me take the case of Methaneilie Jütakhrie (MJ) who has been composing, recording and selling songs for over 3 decades now. His songs have touched many over the years. I do not know how much money MJ must have made over these years by composing, recording and selling songs. In the early 90s, a cassette album of MJ cost Rs.80 and an album usually consisted of around 8-9 songs. So if we consider the amount of energy, concentration, resources and time that MJ spent in coming out with 8-9 songs for an album and compare that to the money which he would get by selling his album cassettes at around Rs.80 per copy, I guess the money that he ultimately gets would be certainly not worth the amount of labor he put into his songs. So the money that MJ must have earned over the years by composing and selling songs may be just peanuts when compared with the earnings of some of the top govt. officials or contractors in Nagaland. This is the scenario despite the fact that the songs of MJ always sold like hot cakes in the market. But the point to ponder about is this: in the late 80s or 90s, if Methaneilie was to stop composing and recording songs saying that it is not generating enough money for him, what a loss it would have been to his art, to his fans, to the Tenyiedie language, to the Angami culture, to the modern genre of Angami songs and to the Angami community in particular and the Nagas in general. But MJ did not stop doing what he loved to do and in the process he went on to enrich the lives of many through his songs. So I guess he did it for the sake of art and not for money.  

Let me also cite the story of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee spent years in the US and he did everything possible to enter into the American film industry but he was given only cold shoulders by it. So in 1970 Bruce returned to Hong Kong and approached the biggest film studios there to make a new genre of movies through which he could introduce and exhibit his martial arts and Chinese culture. But none of the film studios in Hong Kong saw any potential in him. And it was a new studio called Golden Harvest headed by a guy named Raymond Chow which decided to give Bruce Lee a chance by casting him in the lead role for a movie.  

However, Bruce Lee was offered very little money for the role. But he did not mind doing the movie as long as he was able to exhibit his style of martial arts through the film because for Bruce Lee, the primary objective was to introduce and promote martial arts through films. For him, money was never the primary motive but rather it was his art to which he was totally devoted and committed and as long as he had the channel to exhibit and promote his art, he was ever ready whether it brings in any money for him or not.  

However, history is witness to the fact that an artist’s total dedication to his art can make him a millionaire overnight even though the artist might not have taken up the art for money reason. I can cite the names of many great personalities here but since I have already taken up Bruce Lee’s name, let me continue with it. In 1970 before he signed the contract with Golden Harvest, Bruce Lee was struggling even to pay his house rent. But by the end of 1972 after his films shattered all box office records in Asia, Bruce Lee had become one of the highest paid actors in the world. But a true artist’s perspective to his art should be that he gives his best to his art whether the art brings back any money for him or not. “Whether my art makes me a millionaire or not is not important, what is important is that I enrich myself and others through my art”.  

Over the years, dozens of people have asked me about the nature of my association with the Morung Express. I tell them that I am associated with the Morung Express for the sake of art. Yes, I consider writing also to be a form of art and I contribute articles to the Morung Express not for the sake of money or fame but for the sake of art. I am extremely grateful to the Morung Express for providing precious space in its daily for my articles for all these years. I love penning down my thoughts on paper and I am lucky that an esteemed daily of Nagaland is gracious and kind enough to publish these articles not for money but for the sake of art.  

So the bottom-line is this: your art is more important than your money. It is your art (not your money) that can make you popular and famous and take you to places you have never even dreamed of. When we do something for the sake of money only, it enriches us only and no other …. but when we do something for the sake of art we enrich not only ourselves but many others as well. Let us not give up on the art which we love to do saying that there is no money in it. Rather let us continue to enrich ourselves and others and spread happiness all around through our arts. We can certainly reach out to many more people out there through our arts….. we can even reach where our money can never take us. Our money may not be able to touch somebody’s heart but our arts certainly can. So let our consideration for money take backseat sometimes and learn to live a more meaningful and enriching life by doing and engaging in things for the sake of art also rather than for the sake of money alone……and be a harbinger of joy, happiness, contentment, inspiration, awe and glory…….