What can be gleaned from this tale of outer space visionaries?
Perhaps, most simply, it is the power of the arts to cultivate the imagination—to render possible in the mind what has not yet been tangibly realized. As the Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan observed in his 1964 classic, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man:
“The artist is the [person] in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of [their] actions and of the new knowledge in [their] own time. [The artist] is the [person] of integral awareness.”
In recent years, American education policy has increasingly emphasized
the value of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often at the expense of support for the arts.
At what peril does education policy drift away from the arts? What sort of navigational cues might go missing?
Scientists, the essayist Rebecca Solnit noted
, certainly play an integral role in human discovery. They “transform the unknown into the known, haul it in like fishermen.”
But it is the artist, she writes, who gets “you out into that dark sea” in the first place.
It was artists who first envisioned and produced photographic technologies. It was artists who first foresaw
a world in which individuals might fly. And it will be artists who continue to shatter the perceived limitations to our own intellectual frameworks.
In 2018, the Japanese tycoon Yusaku Maezawa paid an undisclosed sum of money to become the first person to orbit the Moon since 1972. If all goes according to plan, he’ll depart in 2023 with companions of his choosing.
I find his selection fitting: He intends
to take along a group of artists.