As this is my final issue as Editor for Lunch Ticket, and thus my last “Word from the Editor,” I wanted to take a moment to reiterate what I think is a core belief of the magazine before exiting.
Now more than ever we writers face the question of whether art can still function as a vessel for social change. I say that it can, but there first needs to be a revaluation of the role of the artist in a world where change is continuous and swift.
How can creative writers make an impact on such a world? Simply put: through sharing the moral imagination. Everyone understands there is a relationship between art and culture. Unfortunately, the growing trend in contemporary writing is to further deepen our culture of impatience, intolerance, and violence. The moral imagination still exists in art, but too often it lives on only in small and often unread pockets. The role of the subjective has become so prevalent and lauded that we need to remember that art is inherently an outward expression—that while we use it as a form of self-expression and self-excision, it is as much a form of communication, a way to share ideas and experiences with others for their sake and benefit. While art is at its core concerned with telling the stories of individuals, it can function as a vessel of wide social address. What we say as writers matters. And we shouldn’t shy away from saying what we must when we worry that it may be disagreeable. We must not be afraid. Art has always been controversial, the controversies and struggles surrounding and depicted in stories and poems and other forms of art lead to change. We must unite private conscience with public responsibility—we must bring our moral imagination into public view. Art is about relations, relationships, and the interpretation of the significance of those relations. Art needs to make us both think and feel.
Many believe that the role of art and literature is simply to be beautiful. That is a damaging stereotype. While there is much beauty in this world and all that it contains, we must remember that we need to also reveal the ugly. Only by presenting the ugly, the brutal and the brutish, the horrifying and the horrifyingly unjust, can we face such things and do something about them.
Art and literature, as aesthetic experiences driven by thinking and feeling, provide a platform for transcendent understanding. It allows us to vicariously experience, live with, and learn from others whose viewpoints are not our own. In other words, they promote empathy, a felt kind of understanding; and from empathy comes compassion. Don’t let the opportunities for widespread social change afforded by that possibility go to waste. Not now when communication on a massive scale is easier and more impactful it has ever been. Make your stories matter.