This project, Learning in Wartime, or Why Study Art in the 21st Century?" revises C.S. Lewis' 2939 essay for contemporary students and artists.
An excerpt (sans footnotes):
"I think it was Matthew Arnold who first used the English word spiritual in the sense of the German geistlich, and so inaugurated this most dangerous error. Let us clear it forever from our minds. The work of a Beethoven and the work of a charwoman become spiritual, i.e. take on a more than functional purpose, on precisely the same conditions, that of being offered for the greater good, of being done humbly. This does not, of course, mean that it is for anyone a mere toss-up whether he should sweep rooms or compose symphonies. A mole must dig for the greater good and a cock must crow. We are members of one body, but differentiated members, each with his own vocation. A man's upbringing, his talents, his circumstances, are usually a tolerable index of his vocation. If our parents have sent us to art school, or if we have found our way there ourselves, and economic or national circumstance allow us to remain there, this is a prima facie evidence that the life which we, at any rate, can best lead to the greater good or to the betterment of mankind at present is the artistic life.
An appetite for these things exists in the human mind, and no appetite or impulse exists without reason. We can therefore pursue knowledge as such, and beauty as such, in the sure confidence that by so doing we are either advancing towards our hopeful vision for the world ourselves or indirectly helping others to do so. Humility, no less than the appetite, encourages us to concentrate simply on the knowledge or the beauty, not too much concerning ourselves with their ultimate relevance to the world.
The artistic life is not the only road to "the good life," nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course, it will be so only so long as we keep in the impulse pure and disinterested. That is the great difficulty. As the author of the Theologica Germanica says, we may come to love knowledge/our knowing more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in the artist's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his creative work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived."
You can dowload the entire text (with footnotes!) here.
Why Study Art in the 21st Century?
RESEARCH, READING, WRITING, EDITING