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Art Is What Makes Us Human

The following is a guest post from R. S. Mellette, author of the serialized podcast Kiya And The Morian Treasure. R. S. has previously worked on the popular TV series, Xena: Princess Warrior.


I'm dyslexic. Before you get all, "Oh, you're dyslexic, but you write books — how did that happen?" you should know that there are tons of dyslexic authors. One of the symptoms of dyslexia is being extremely creative. Whether that's because of the way our brains are laid out or because we had to be quick on our feet when answering questions about homework we didn't read, no one knows for sure. I like to think it's the former, but I was pretty good at the latter, too. I'm very proud of getting the only A on an essay test about Thoreau's “Walden” without having read it. (Shhh, don't tell anyone.)

My Dad, on the other hand, was a voracious reader and struggling novelist. He used to give me a hard time about all the TV that I watched while he sat next to me scarfing down pulp action novels, all the while claiming books were SOOOO much better. … OK, when I was watching reruns of “Gilligan's Island” and he was re-reading “All Quiet on the Western Front,” he was probably right. But “M*A*S*H”? “All In The Family”? I'd put those up against any classic lit or Stephen King novel.

One of the things that defines us as human beings is our need to share stories – both telling them and hearing them. Scientists used to struggle with what separated us from the rest of the animal kingdom. First, it was opposing thumbs. Really?! Then it was tool-making – until we observed nearly every other animal making tools.

Meanwhile, we've never seen giraffes wearing necklaces. You'd think that would be a no-brainer, right? Chimpanzees don't build amphitheaters. Elephants might have long memories because they don't write anything down.

The arts are what make us special.

Wait. We're talking about TV and novels. Television is art?

There was a famous quote going around Hollywood when I moved here. "Theater is Art. Film is Entertainment. Television is furniture." I'm not sure who coined that saying, but whoever it was, I'd like to point them to Jasmine C. Davis' post about “Xena: Warrior Princess.” I've it pinned to my Facebook page and present it here with her permission.

What's my point?

Part of being human is finding a way to express ourselves. That's not just something we want to do, it's something we HAVE to do. We have to share our stories.

And sharing is a two-way street. We have to experience other people's stories as much as we have to tell our own. Whether we tell them through music, paintings, theater, dance, television, movies, or some technology that hasn't been invented yet – if we don't share our stories, we'll explode.

But there are only so many stories out there. Maybe that's why each generation comes up with a new way of telling them. We started painting them on the cave walls. I'm sure the parents of the generation that first did that screamed, "You, kids! Stop that painting on the cave! Come sit at the fire and dance your story like your grandfather did or sing them like your father does today. Painting on the cave walls, What's next? Charm bracelets?!"

That quickly grew into big budget special-effects extravaganzas. No joke, there are actual ancient letters from playwrights to rich patrons trying to raise money to produce their plays at the Festival of Dionysus. There are also writings from critics complaining that the plays had all become about superheroes (OK, gods – but what's the difference, right?) swooping in to save the day via some big special effect – usually Apollo's flaming sun chariot. The critics said that was lazy writing and begged them to produce plays about regular families solving life's problems themselves. These things happened almost 3,000 years ago.

I think it's a good bet that if you're a teenager, your parents aren't going to "get" the way you tell or consume your stories. My dad didn't get The Beatles. I didn't get techno. If you're an adult, don't worry if you don't understand how the kids these days are getting their stories or telling their stories… worry about if they don’t have any stories all.

Oh, and if you're a reluctant reader, you're probably not reading this article, but if you know one: Yes, no matter what, reading is still important and it takes practice to get the muscles in your eyes to work with your brain, just like playing a sport, except you don't have a choice. You gotta play.


About The Author: R.S. Mellette, originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, now lives in San Clemente, California, where he toils away at turning his imaginary friends into real ones. He's previously worked on “Xena: Warrior Princess." His newest story, entitled Kiya And The Morian Treasure, is being released as a weekly podcast.


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