A Proof of the Existence of Bullshit

Art is art in spite of form. However you constrain it, by substrate or convention or character, it thrives. Haikus impress no less than prose, nor psalms than symphonies.

Which brings me to a simple thought experiment.

Suppose you have a writer — a really good one — and you give him a blank piece of paper, a pen, and a lot of time. It's obvious that any literary achievement is within his ambit. He could write "Common Sense" or Crime and Punishment.

Now imagine we tell him he can't go more than 500 words. We've basically ruled out novels, short stories, magazine articles, plays, screenplays, and so on. But have we cramped his style? Crimped his craft? Can't he still produce marvelous, masterful works of real art?

Of course. Shakespeare could give you four sonnets in that space. Marx could give you a reason to riot. God could give you his Commandments. No matter what your definition of "art," it fits within 500 words.

But what about five? What of chef-d'oeuvres now? Can art emerge in such a tiny world?

Suppose it cannot. Now we have a problem: did it become impossible at 499 words, or 49? Thirteen's a good number — prime, Fibonacci's sixth, unlucky; maybe art becomes impossible there. And the obvious question: are we counting hyphens?

The idea that there'd be some word count above which artistic genius can work its magic and below which it can't... is laughable. So by induction we have to assume, though it seems elusive, that art is indeed possible with a mere five words.

What does that tell you about art?