The Urge To Express


I remember as a little boy pointing to things, and calling out their names to one parent or another. As I got older and watched other tots doing the same thing, it occurred that this wasn't just an exercise in recognition and naming through language. This was what now seems a deep-seated urge to express that goes beyond the common ground of object and name. 


We express ourselves through the media of our own perceptual devices and our own experience. That means each of us has a unique take on the panorama of life. But were this urge to express to be unique in the extreme, it would only be cacophony, dissonance, noise. 

What makes such expression a valuable human trait is that it is both unique and common. We share experience of, say, a baseball game, but each of us reacts differently to the game. I may cheer the home run hitter in the ninth inning while a pitcher's nine-inning stint of no-hit ball takes you to the edge of your bleacher seat. I may applaud one team's winning, while the person sitting in front of me bemoans the other team's loss. 


This interaction of the personal and the common is at the basis of art. We writers, for instance, tell stories unique in character and setting, but, hopefully, we've orchestrated our stories in ways that touch common chords in every human being. 

But why this urge in the first place? I think it's because while we enjoy our uniqueness, we feel the loss of communion, the loss of some connection to one another that remains hidden from our personal experience. Art – in all its forms – seeks to resolve that. It reaches deep within us to the place where each of us exists as one sentient being, relishing those many perspectives. And the very human expressive urge seems to have evolved to allow us just that.


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