Art is useless

So there we were, all hairy and not very articulate, sitting round the fire. We were warm, we had a cave nearby, and we had just wiped the grease of roast beast from our chins.

We looked at each other and said, "Now what?" And someone got up and started dancing. Someone else growled and wailed rhythmically, while someone else mimed the day's hunt, to the amusement of the crowd. Meanwhile, another had picked up a piece of charred wood and begun making marks on a stone...

There you have it, the birth of art. No, it's not essential in the way that food and shelter are essential. In fact, art is useless. That's why we need it. Because it's precisely what makes us human.

Cave painting by the San people depicting an elephant hunt in South Africa. (Credit: iStockphoto/Gary Bedell)