In past eras, high art and culture was restricted to the elite. Exquisite paintings, classical music, fine literature – all of this was restricted to the royalty, aristocracy and the upper castes. It was posited that the other sections of society, scrambling as they were for survival, could not appreciate such art. In any case, a host of economical and social reasons kept high art and culture out of their reach.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and we see three major shifts.
Firstly, prosperity is more widespread today than it has been in any era in human history. A poor person in 21st century Germany can expect to live longer and more luxuriously than a 17th century aristocrat anywhere in the world. Secondly, since our basic needs have been better served, a larger population of humanity seeks meaning in wealth and status. However, they realize that this doesn’t work too well. Thirdly, the internet can now bring high art and culture to most of our living rooms.
Survival remains a struggle for most people on the planet. Yet, life continues to be hard even for those of us who are fortunate enough to not worry about survival. Today, the internet can serve as a vehicle to bring us the best of humanity’s art and culture, to help us lead a meaningful life.
Three excellent movements that further this cause are:
1. The School of Life, whose vision ties is aligned with what I have written above
2. Daily Art, an app that sends you one famous painting a day
3. The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) – a compilation of notes on the world’s best literature and art