Why does a lot of older art depict gods?

Why is modern art so abstract?

It has to do with how your brain works:
This is probably not the slam on modern art you're expecting.

But there is a big problem with it:

Something we are (finally) figuring out: you are not a brain in a jar.

A lot of your cognition is distributed through your body.
For example, if you want to become a better boxer, you watch a great boxer and try to "mimic" his body.

He could spit theory at you all day, but it wouldn't help until you got in the ring.

Just ask @EdLatimore
If you want to become a better person, you need to "embody" an ideal.

You can't just say to someone, "wrestle with the truth," and expect them to change.

You need to show what that actually looks like.

Maybe it's like this:
That's why God is usually depicted as a person. Someone wise. But, someone specific and embodied.

"Bearded man in the sky," is not as dumb as modern people think. It's helpful.

You can't have a relationship with "the universe" or "energy."

How do you embody the whole universe?
Genius artists like Michangelo spent thousands of hours on the bodies of heavenly beings.

He got a deep "feel" for what it was like to embody them.

Go to the Sistine Chapel and tell me you don't feel like becoming a better person just standing there.
It's also why they painted deities in Ancient Egypt, Greece, India, and Rome.

We're obsessed with the physicality of gods, not because we're superstitious savages, but because we want to know what it feels like to be "higher."

That's a powerful technology.
But it's important to note: these artists provided a social service in exchange for a paycheck -- and they saw it that way.

There was no notion of art for art's sake. They were serving the church. Or their king.

It's not until the modern age we are wealthy enough to reflect.
Now, art is mostly disconnected from social obligation.

That's the reason modern art gets so "heady." It's all about the artist's ideas.

The @culturaltutor explores that idea in this great thread:

But, we are so obsessed with self-reflection that we've crawled up our own asses. How does THIS inspire you to be better? (I understand irony, but... enough already).

The Latin root of the word "art" (ar) means "to fit together."

This is more about pulling things apart.
I'm not calling modern art anything it doesn't call itself -- some sects are literally called deconstructivism.

That's fine. I know questioning has its place.

It's sometimes useful to tear something apart to see what it's made of.
But, most ordinary people don't get any practical value from art as an ironic commentary on other art.

So, we're left with a whole generation of people who don't "get" art.

The solution, as far as I can tell, is to get back to the roots.

What is beauty for?
To me, art needs to help people get in their body (heart) and aim for a higher ideal.

I'm not being cute or abstract about this: It's THE tool to improve life and society.

There is no more powerful tool.
We forget, but beauty is the source of value.

There are more tourists in France than citizens right now.

Art made hundreds of years ago by people who couldn't read generates billions today.

Why have we stopped trying?

Really, beauty is everyone's deepest goal.
Try this: put a beautiful painting in your home.

You'll subconsciously begin to embody the ideal.

Better yet, try creating something beautiful (it's very hard).

But watch how much faster that works than being heady or ironic about everything.
How do we make art useful to normal people again?

As Cultural Tutor points out, most talented artists now create movies.

There is still beauty in the world, obviously.

But what about traditional art?
As it stands, I feel like "art" is a thing you pretend to "get" when you go to the museum with your "smart" friends.

It would be much more useful to me as a bald attempt at beauty.

I want to see more of that.

Thanks for reading.

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Taylor, this is a fantastic thread, so well written. Thank you for putting this insightful summary together