Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Simple Summary

In response to the inspirational TED talk by Alain de Botton:


There is a constant pressure to amount to something worthwhile in the Western world. The language of that very sentence is full of value statements heavy with subjectivity. Amount to… what? Something worthwhile… such as? Worthwhile according to whom? We live in a continuous, repeating if-then statement. “If I accomplish said task, then I will obtain said status.” We are inundated by a constant deluge of “succeed, succeed, succeed…” It is initially an encouraging statement, but it quickly becomes cumbersome.

After the initial surge of optimistic inspiration fades from the message, it begins to be riddled with self-doubt and envy of others. Without knowing how it really began, we become obsessed, even subconsciously, with status and prestige. We insist on attempting to make a name for ourselves, rooting our value as individuals in what we have accomplished.

We don’t just apply this to ourselves. We also look upon others, and whether we mean to or not, cast judgment upon them. We assume that the position they’re in, high or low, is entirely they’re own doing. In short, we live by the principle that everyone gets what they deserve. We have created a ridiculous societal structure known as a meritocracy, outlined poignantly by Alain de Botton.

A cynical and bleak outlook to be sure. However, with every problem, there is a solution to be found. He makes a simple, yet very important, statement in this regard: “You can’t be successful at everything.” There is an element of loss in every success story. Furthermore, your vision of success is often not even from your own ideas, but rather it is gleaned from others and what you perceive their opinions to be. He brings this point home with the following conclusion:

“What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own… That we are truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what you want, and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t in fact what you wanted all along.”

Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.

Anais Nin

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Defining God

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Many artists have turn towards nature. Others turn towards other artists. Still others find inspiration from the mundane, reading between the lines of the beautiful and extracting the commonplace. Take Degas and his dancers for instance. It was rarely beautiful pirouettes that coaxed his pencil to his paper. Rather, it was the lacing of their ballet slippers or the twisting of their hair that caught his eye and told him, “Create.” For Leon Lhermitte, his canvases often depicted the back-breaking farm work of rural peasants. For Elizabeth Gilbert, her own story inspired her.

With great hesitation I place myself under the great expansive umbrella of the artists of human history. I am passionate, yes. But ignorant also. Eager to learn, to inspire, and to be inspired. I feel like a newly hatched chick, peeping excessively, and almost unnoticeably. I squeeze in at the outermost edge, one shoulder rubbing the shoulder of another who has been in the game a little longer than I, but still a novice. Everything but their toes is shielded under the grand parasol. I, on the other hand, have a whole shoulder exposed to the elements. I glance over it sheepishly, wondering if I am qualified enough to be edging my way in. Is there such thing as a qualification? Do I need anymore than the desire to create? Can you create without being an artist? Can you be an artist without creating? Should I even bother with attempting to define the role of an artist? Many theists believe we as humans are “co-creators” with God. Perhaps it is as futile to attempt to define who an artist is, as it is to attempt to define God.