What Matters Most? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Edward Larson   
Friday, 20 November 2009 17:37


In The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer writes “Philanthropy for the arts or for cultural activities is, in a world like this one, morally dubious.” Singer mentions how The Metropolitan Museum of Art bought a painting by Duccio in 2004 for more than $45 million, an amount, that would pay for cataract operations on 900,000 blind or near-blind people in the developing world. Peter Singer ends this passage on arts funding with this powerful question: “If the museum were on fire, would anyone think it right to save the Duccio from the flames, rather than a child?”


It is natural to wonder what makes an art work worth millions and what is actually being bought and sold when works are sold for such exorbitant amounts. In light of Peter Singer's book the entire enterprise of purchasing art, whatever the cost, could also be called into question. Of course there is virtually no limit to the number of things one might point out as not being worth the life of a child that we habitually choose to purchase rather than donate to charity. From bottled water to daily lattes, to our DSL line, most items we pay for are dollars that could literally be spent instead on reducing another being's suffering. In fact Peter Singer's new book is one such item we could avoid buying.


Like many artists I have questioned the value and meaning of art. What I have come to believe is best about art, is its ability to connect us to something  greater than ourselves. When faced with a monumental work our spirit is stirred, our heart lifted, our hope and faith renewed. These things matter and must not be taken lightly, but I think they are secondary or perhaps a tool in the cause of greater service and the reduction of suffering.


Singer's argument is to my mind, similar to the attitude most Buddhists take towards the precepts. Josho, the abbess of the Chapel Hill Zen Center, describes the precepts this way: "Working with the precepts can be compared to a baby learning to walk. The baby takes a step and falls down, takes another couple of steps and loses his balance. Slowly, by trying over and over, the baby learns to maintain the walking motion longer until, eventually, he can not only walk,but run and dance." There is little to be gained from condemning ourselves for failing to live up to an ideal, ideals are most useful as a direction in which to travel.


Should you buy one of my paintings? I don't know and like the precepts, it is not really my place to hold others to a particular standard, and it certainly would not be very helpful. I do offer 30% of the profits from my artwork sales to charity. I also offer select artworks as gifts given free of charge to anyone who makes a donation to specific charities above a certain amount. I don't ask for proof that you made the donation preferring instead to trust in your honesty and generosity. I mention this because like Peter Singer, I believe that being visible with our giving matters. One will have a difficult time establishing and nurturing a culture of giving without visibility.



Art offered as gifts for giving. Contact me at spaceferrets (at) yahoo (dot) com if you would like to claim artwork. Please specify which you would like. Thanks for giving.


 Gift #1 **This work has been claimed and is no longer available 11/23/09**


Acrylic on illustration board

framed 40inx16in (no glass)

Painted 2004 

Offered as a thank you for a donation of  $150 or more to one of the following:



Stop Hunger Now





Gift #2    Available             Gift #3  Available


Framed with glass 3.5inx4.5in                     (side view to show frame)

Acrylic, charcoal and graphite on paper

painted 2009

Either one of these images are available for a donation of $15 or more to one of the above charities.






Gift #4                                Available         Gift #5                              Available



Both painted 2008, acrylic on canvas, both are approximately 16x24 in

(I will list exact sizes later today)

Number 4 and 5 are each offered individually as a gift  for a donation of  $80 or more to one of the above listed charities or as a pair for $150.





Check back soon, new works will be listed regularly.




Here are a few paintings that have already be claimed through this program.

Link 1

Link 2



Last Updated on Monday, 23 November 2009 19:26

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