Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More "War"

From The Authentic Self:
Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

It we were born to paint, it's our job to become a painter.

If we were born to raise and nurture children, it's our job to become a mother.

If we were born to overthrow the order of ignorance and injustice of the world, it's our job to realize it and get down to business.

The Hierarchical Orientation:
Most of us define ourselves hierarchically and don't even know it. It's hard not to. School, advertising, the entire materialist culture drills us from birth to define ourselves by others' opinions. Drink this beer, get this job, look this way and everyone will love you.

What is a hierarchy, anyway?

Hollywood is a hierarchy. So are Washington, Wall Street, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

High school is the ultimate hierarchy. And it works; in a pond that small, the hierarchical orientation succeeds. The cheerleader knows where she fits, as does the dweeb in the Chess Club. Each has found a niche. The system works. 

There's a problem with the hierarchical orientation, though. When the numbers get too big, the thing breaks down. A pecking order can hold only so many chickens. In Massepequa High, you can find your place. Move to Manhattan, and the trick no longer works. New York City is too big to function as a hierarchy. So is IBM. So is Michigan State. The individual in multitudes this vast feels overwhelmed, anonymous. He is submerged in the mass. He's lost.

We humans seem to have been wired by our evolutionary past to function most comfortably in a tribe of twenty to, say, eight hundred. We can push it maybe to a few thousand, even to five figures. But at some point in maxes out. Our brains can't file that many faces. We thrash around, flashing our badges of status (Hey, how do you like my Lincoln Navigator?) and wondering why nobody gives a shit.

We have entered Mass Society. The hierarchy is too big. It doesn't work anymore. 

The Artist and the Hierarchy:
The artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling. If you don't believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer in his whole life.

The artist must operate territorially. He must do his work for its own sake.

The Difference Between Territory and Hierarchy:
Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?

If you're all alone on the planet, a hierarchical orientation makes no sense. There's no one to impress. So, if you'd still pursue that activity, congratulations. You're doing it territorially. 

If Arnold Schwarzenegger were the last man on earth, he'd still go to the gym. Stevie Wonder would still pound the piano. The sustenance they get comes from the act itself, not from the impression it makes on others. I have a friend who's nuts for clothes. If she were the last woman on earth, she would shoot straight to Givenchy or St. Laurent, smash her way in, and start pillaging. In her case, it wouldn't be to impress others. She just loves clothes. That's her territory.

The Fruits of Our Labor:
Every breath we take, every heartbeat, every evolution of every cell comes from God and is sustained by God every second, just as every creation, invention, every bar of music or line of verse, every thought, vision, fantasy, every dumb-ass flop and stroke of genius comes from that infinite intelligence that created us and the universe in all its dimensions, out of the Void, the field of infinite potential, primal chaos, the Muse. To acknowledge that reality, to efface all ego, to let the work come through us and give it back freely to its source, that, in my opinion, is as true to reality as it gets.

Aaand... The Artist's Life:
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.

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