Over my cereal this morning, I read a wonderful story in yesterday’s New York Times (I am behind a day) written by Natalie Angier titled “The Dance of Evolution, or How Art Got Its Start.” Besides being a fabulous piece of journalistic writing, the piece describes a current idea among evolutionary theorists that we humans are driven to make art – jewelry, quilts, knitting, paintings, dances, etc – not because we want to show off our individual talents, but because art is “a profoundly communal affair, of harvest dances, religious pageants, quilting bees, the passionate town rivalries that gave us the spires of Chartres, Riems and Amiens.”
I encourage anyone who feels compelled to create anything – including prayer beads – to read this article. The shocker of the piece for me was the assertion by David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary theorist, that “the only social elixir of comparable strength is religion, another impulse that spans culture and time.”
Wow. Maybe now I understand why I feel equally compelled to make art as a hobby and write about religion as a profession – evolution made me do it. Perhaps it also explains why I so often find myself writing about the intersection of religion and art. This is a fascinating read that underscores why many people derive such a deep sense of peace and satisfaction from making prayer beads – or anything else. It is not so much that we want to stand out as unique, but that we want to be drawn together with others in an appreciation of beauty.